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    Entries in baby sign (1)


    I Hold It

    Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.



    If you would've asked the pre-motherhood-me about how I'd communicate with my future children, I'd have almost certainly said that any kid of mine would be speaking in complete sentences by age one. Like I did. Like my mother loves to recount. There's a cassette tape of my first birthday that features a newly one year-old Stefanie saying things like, "I hold it!" (the microphone) and singing You Are My Sunshine, reciting the ABCs. That same me, pre-George, thought baby sign language was -- you know -- cute, but unnecessary if your hearing-capable child simply got the amount and type of attention required to teach said child to talk. HA HA. I know, I know!

    Fast forward to the first few months after giving birth, when I would've hacked my own arm off ala Aron Ralston just to extricate myself from the frustration of being unable to effectively communicate with the tiny new love of my life. Baby sign language? Hell yes, please. I opened and closed my hand during every hours-long nursing session, hoping that George would pick it up. Hoping that the next time he cried like his heart was broken, a lightbulb would appear over his little head that meant, "HEY WAIT! I can tell you what I need, and what I need is to nurse," and his fist would open and shut, the Halleluia chorus would sound and we would go out for a celebratory drink. Oh. Um, anyway.

    One day, it happened. Five months in, my screechy little grump learned how to talk. Sort of. He was nomming away and reached up to sign right under my nose: Nurse. Milk. Nom nom. In my face, as if to say, "Mama, you better not miss this." I didn't believe it. I took video and posted it on Facebook, hoping for confirmation, which came quickly from other parents, along with hearty congratulations, the likes of which only come from people who know the magic of that Baby-English Dictionary. And with that, the game changed. He told me when he was hungry, which was more often than I'd realized. More often than "they" say babies are "supposed" to eat. I could stop trying everything else before feeding; he just put that little fist to work and I complied. Happily. No -- ecstatically. A month or so later came 'all done,' then 'more.' Like Which way to the train?, Where is the bathroom? and excuse me, the all-purpose phrases of international travel, these three signs covered a multitude of situations (I am all done with this stupid diaper change; More of those sweet tunes! Get out of my face -- you aren't funny [which can be conveyed with surprising unambiguity with 'all done']). We had a different child. The ability to tell us what he wanted made him happy and proud, and our ability to understand him came as such a relief. That crabby, misunderstood little guy was replaced by the communicative George we have now, and my stock in baby sign language went through the roof.

    He began using a verbal vocabulary in what I like to consider a recreational way, because he wasn't forced to hurry up and learn to talk about his needs. Cat, dog and meow were his first words (besides Mama), and continue to be the ones he uses most frequently, almost always while pointing out an animal and grinning a grin that asks if you are getting a load of this(?!). At almost thirteen months, he is definitely nowhere near singing You Are My Sunshine or reciting his ABCs, but what I've learned from parenting my son is something that I've had to learn and relearn many times before this final (I hope) sinking in: everyone goes at their own pace, and intelligence means different things in different situations. If my six month old had been able to do what I (not so) lovingly call baby tricks -- the motions to Itsy Bitsy Spider, "SO big" (which is really freaking cute; don't get me wrong), etc., but didn't have the tools to express his most basic needs and wants, he might still have been considered "smarter" than other kids his age. But would he feel empowered, understood, validated? George won't be a Billy Collins-reading Youtube sensation anytime soon, but I know which is more important to me.  

    If you had asked that pre-kid Stefanie to prioritize feeling validated and the appearance of intelligence, I'm sorry to say that she would've had some difficulty deciding before arriving, in all likelihood, at looking smart being more important. I'm delighted to report, however, that a really, really clever baby has shown her the error of her ways.



    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

    (This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)