Monday, October 24, 2005

i saw the sign (sorry, but if i have to have the damn song in my head, as i have since i thought of this title, so do you)

since we don't have a down-on-his-luck sibling to come over and invent a baby translator, and the eeeehhhhh! is getting really old, i've been working on teaching mr. baby man some sign language. and not only is it beyond fantastic to feel like i'm communicating with him, the cuteness factor is also very, very high.

the first sign i taught him was for "nurse". i figured it was a good idea to start with something he liked, and did often. so for the past two months or so, every time i'd ask, "do you want to nurse?" i'd make the sign: put all the fingers of one hand together like you're making the stereotypical "mwah!" italian hand gesture, then bring your hand to your lips. technically this is the sign for "eat", but i figured it was close enough. i didn't expect him to get it right away, but after a month and a half and no discernable response, i started to feel like an idiot making the sign everytime i mentioned nursing, like wile was looking at me like "what's up with that weird nervous twitch that mama's developed? maybe she should talk to someone about that..."

then a few weeks ago we were in the grocery store because i had forgotten to place a fresh direct order, and i had mr. baby man in the seat of the cart and was plying him with pirate's booty to keep him from having a breakdown/trying to climb out of the cart. we had been at the park with our friend ruby, who is 3 months older than wile, earlier in the day and she'd been using the sign for "more", so i decided to give it a shot. when he started bleating for more booty, i asked if he wanted "more" and made the sign: put the fingers of each hand together like the nurse/eat sign and tap the fingertips together. within three aisles, he was doing it back. i took it all in stride, of course, stopping the cart in the middle of the aisle and shouting "you're a genius!!" and giving him a huge hug and kiss. i'm surprised i didn't scare him so bad that he never did it again.... so i don't know if it was the power of the booty (aka "baby crack") or if i just got him at the right moment, when his little brain was ready for it, but the "more" sign took hold and hasn't let go. of course, sometimes he asks for "more" when he hasn't had anything, and i have to try to figure out what in the blazes he wants more of—the cat? the pretzels we were eating an hour ago? the ball? huh?

that was our big turning point. it's not like he's signing complete sentences or anything, but he's definitely down with the concept. he does the "nurse" sign now, though sometimes he does it with only one finger and looks like the poster baby for bulemia, which is a little disturbing, and sometimes he'll do the "nurse" sign that he created himself: grabbing the front of his shirt, pulling it away from his chest, looking down it, and then looking at me. well yes, wile, that is more to the point, isn't it....

he's also got a pretty good hold on nodding his head yes—always with a big grin and accompanied by "deh!", his noise of assent—and just today started to shake his head no, thankfully not accompanied by the dreaded spoken "no!" his head shakes are very vehement, utilizing not only the head but pretty much the entire upper body. and he has refined his outstretched-hand-reach gesture into a definite point, with definite direction and intent. handing me the ball and pointing up? "throw the ball up in the air!" handing me a hat and pointing to his head? "put that thing on me!"

tonight in the bath he stood up, looked over at the soap dish, and rubbed his hands together. "do you want me to soap you?" i asked him, and he nodded. i almost passed right out. communication! invention of a sign totally on his own! i had already soaped and rinsed him and it was definitely time to be getting on with the bedtime, but i reached over and got that soap. maybe you could refuse a naked baby asking you for something with his chubby little hands, but i sure as hell can't.

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