What's meaning got to do with anything?
“ABIBA!' Apparently, that should mean something to me. Like an inconclusive end to an anecdote or even a noun perhaps. Or maybe it means I should pull a pair of trousers over my head and pretend I have bunny ears. Or it could potentially mean the dog has entered the kitchen again and is making a mess of the rubbish bin.
This time I could hear the exclamation in the word being uttered by a grubby little human being: my son. This was urgent. 'Abiba' could mean that a meteor shower is about to wipe out the earth. Or more likely, there's some kind of meteor shower going on in a toddlers diaper.
This was three years ago. My boy was one. And he had just learned to utter absolute gibberish, hoping we would catch on. We couldn't. We were/are probably terrible parents, not knowing the important and vital communication our son was imparting. Or rather, I didn't know.
The wife would pick up the kid and keep trying out different things till he smiled. She would feed him or take him to the toilet or show him a pigeon outside desperately trying to act macho in front of our dog. Me? I would try to figure out the context of his utterances. And I failed miserably. It was like trying to communicate with a petulant monkey. Except monkeys have only two desires in life: to jump and to throw nasty things at humans.
Which brought up some uncanny similarities. Monkeys jump, toddlers jump. Monkeys throw nasty things at humans, so do toddlers. Parents of toddlers are the highest spending group on products like wet tissue, regular tissue or super absorbent newspaper. I know about the latter. I ideally work for a news agency that has paper that absorbs spills very efficiently.
So back to 'Abiba'. Could that be code? I spent hours trying to decipher what it meant. I showed him cars, toys, people, food, crumpled remains of my car magazines and a choice selection of all the spare car parts lying throughout my house. He would keep saying the word as if it meant something else. And then one fine day, he stopped. It was a new word now. 'Naambee.'
I gave up. I learned an important lesson that day. Sometimes, nothing will make sense. In fact, most times, nothing about being a father makes sense. I have no clue how to handle my son going to school or growing up and telling me he likes a girl. Worse still, I have no clue how to handle him asking me for my car. And he will probably use alien words that confound me just as much in twenty years' time as he did two years ago.
All I know is, when he says nonsensical words to me now, I need to stop and listen. Not just because it's hilarious what he's trying to say, but me listening to him probably means something to him. For a minute or so. And that means everything to me. Till he asks for my car. That's when I ignore him completely.