My baby recently turned 1, which means that for the past 365+ days, every evening at bath time, I have been faithfully signing “bath” and “daddy”, accompanied by a cheesy grin and silly dance. 365 days. Every single night (well nearly). You’d think baby boy would have cottoned on by now, right?
In this house, we don’t do baby signing, we do mummy signing. I sign and baby boy watches. Occasionally he claps.
But I am nothing if not determined (see exhibit A) and so I soldier on. Luckily I have a thick skin and can shrug aside the reports that “my darling started signing back ‘I love you’ by the time she was 6 months old”. I know this is nothing personal, I’m not doing it wrong or somehow not connecting to my baby. He’s just not interested in communicating and let’s just say that having been married to his father for 7 years that comes as no surprise.
I’ve discovered that the problem with so many parenting ideas is that the people that promote them are generally the ones who find them easy; not the ones with contrary babies have decided that they are having none of this new age elimination communication, babywearing, baby signing business, they’d be perfectly happy with a diaper, stroller and babbling, thank you very much.
Take the ring sling. I love it and find it super easy to use but I realise that it’s just me, because after over a year of watching me put it on, my husband still manages to get the rings all twisted up and invariably needs my help extricating the baby from folds of fabric.
You might wonder why I carry on with the signing. Well, the main reason is that I enjoy it anyway, despite the lack of response. I also don’t want to give up, just because baby boy doesn’t fit the description of all the baby signing books (“he signed ‘mama’ while still in the womb!”, “for her first birthday she recited Shakespeare”). And there have been breakthroughs. Somewhere around the 9 month mark baby boy started signing milk. He only does it while nursing, so the information value is next to nil (thanks for stating the obvious!) but still.
And then last week this happened: while playing a silly game which involved me turning the baby upside down while singing and tickling his tummy, he suddenly looked at me and bumped his fingertips together.
He signed MORE! We have COMMUNICATION!
Turns out he was simply waiting for something worthwhile to speak about. It makes sense really – there’s no need to sign mummy or daddy since we’re always around anyway, pulling down my top in public is a much more effective way to suggest he might want to nurse and what’s the point of signing something as boring as potty?
MORE however, has opened up a world of possibilities. More food. More toys. More play. More beach. To be honest I am absolutely gobsmacked at how expressive a single hand-gesture can be (combined with grimaces and a pointing finger).
And this is why tonight, around 7 pm, I once again will put on a silly grin, sing “bath time with papai” and make the appropriate signs. Because when the penny finally drops, it is so so worth it.