One of the first questions that everyone asked us when they found out that we were going to have a baby was what he or she is going to call us. At first we settled upon “Daddy” and “Papa”, as they seemed to be the conventional choice for gay parents and it made sense to us. We would both have a name of equal importance that distinguished us from one another and we had even been given a cute children’s book to read to the baby called “Daddy and Papa.” While we didn’t think too hard about it, there didn’t seem to be any good alternatives. For example:
Daddy 1 and Daddy 2 -- I would want to be called “Daddy 1” and Stewart wouldn’t appreciate being called “Daddy 2”!
Daddy Jacob and Daddy Stewart – The use of first names comes off as a little too hippy-dippy for us. For the first few years of our child’s life we want to at least think that we are his authority figures!
But our plans to be Daddy and Papa changed after Stewart woke up one morning from a bad dream. He had dreamt that he was at a playground with our baby at toddler age and a woman came up to them and innocently said to the toddler, “Are you enjoying your time with Daddy?” And the toddler responded: “That’s not Daddy!” (Because, in the child’s mind, only I am “Daddy” and Stewart is “Papa”). Upon hearing this, the woman freaked out and immediately called the police to have Stewart arrested, thinking that the toddler had been abducted by a strange man!
Of course it was a silly dream, but it made us realize how the word “daddy” in our society is ubiquitously associated with all things fatherhood, and that therefore it made sense for both of us to be the baby’s “daddy.” But we still needed different names for the baby to call us individually. One day Stewart came home from work and said: “I got it! You should be ‘Abba’ (which is Hebrew for ‘father’) and I will still be ‘Papa’.” I was surprised by Stewart’s suggestion. I don’t speak any Hebrew, or ever really refer to any Hebrew words. How the hell did this guy from a Waspy upbringing -- who didn’t even know what matzah ball soup or lox was before I started dating him -- know to suggest “Abba”? It turns out that he had been giving this topic a lot of thought after his dream, and had looked up on the internet the different names for “father” or “daddy” used throughout the world. “Abba” with “Papa” just sounded right, and seemed especially apropos since I am Jewish and we knew we were going to raise the baby Jewish. So if Max’s first word is “Abba” and not “Daddy” – now you know why!