When I was pregnant, I read all about the benefits of sign language for babies.
So from the time Ryan was about three or four months old, we signed key words and phrases to him. “Milk,” “more,” “all done” and “hungry” were the few we focused on the most.
He never picked up on any of them.
Most kids who are consistently signed to start picking that stuff up relatively early… but when Ryan celebrated his first birthday and still screamed for milk, we sort of gave up.
Part of the problem, we believe, is the ear infection that plagued him from 4 months old to 10 months old. He’d had a hearing test done during that time and the sustained infection was affecting his hearing. There was a risk that his speech would be delayed, which was the deciding factor in getting tubes at such an early age.
(And ok, we weren’t exactly the model of “consistency” with the signing. But it’s more fun to blame the ears.)
To this day, he’s still not talking much. He says “Da!” to Mike and “Buh!” to Belle (the cat), but that’s pretty much it. It has left us all a little frustrated because he cannot communicate his basic needs to us.
On Friday, when he was yelling in his high chair because I wasn’t feeding him fast enough, I decided we’d all had just about enough.
As a last ditch effort, I once again attempted to teach him the sign for “more.”
“Do you want more Cheerios?” I asked him, tapping my fingers together.
There was a long, silent pause.
And then my kid looked me square in the eyes and tapped two fingers from his right hand up against the palm of his left hand.
Not perfect form (it might look to an outsider like he’s calling for a time out), but his intent was clear. More Cheerios, please.
Absolutely, kid. Here are some more Cheerios for your enjoyment.
As soon as those Cheerios were gone? Tap tap. More, please!
When he was finally done, he ripped off his bib and raised his arms up in the air. Alright, now we’re getting somewhere.
Since then, he has decided that the “more” sign means any desire he has related to food or drink. If he’s hungry, he signs “more.” If he’s just eaten but wants some milk to wash it down, he signs “more.” If I’m eating turkey bacon anywhere in his general vicinity and he catches me, he signs “more.” (Dude is going through a serious turkey bacon phase at the moment.)
So it’s not an exact science, but it’s a relief to finally have a line of communication open with my son. And it gets better every day. When he finally has what he wants and I ask him “Does that taste good?!” … the kid nods and makes a satisfied little “ymm” sound. Maybe this isn’t overly impressive for a 14-month-old, but it has restored a bit of sanity to our home.