It worked! It worked! My last post with all it’s mooshiness inspired (I like that word better than guilted) my sister into writing about her experience signing with her niece and nephew.
I think my dear sister could have been a bit more mooshy. The more flattery the more effective the guilt.
Kathy is right about one thing, though, I am a fantastic Aunt. Jackson and Lily make it easy. I adore them. If I were to be honest, I probably adore them more than all of my favourite people combined. They are sweet, smart and very funny.
I remember when Kathy first told me that she was going to teach Jackson baby sign language. To say I was skeptical is an understatement. Cynicism practically oozed from my pores right up until the first time I saw Jackson sign. That’s all it took to make me a believer. It was a learning experience for all of us. As Jackson learned new signs so did I. There were times when I couldn’t keep up with his growing singing vocabulary and had to have regular refreshers from Kathy. To be able to communicate with Jack before he even spoke a word was inspiring. Signing supplemented Jackson while he was learning to talk. It was thrilling to hear his little voice, especially once he learned to say “Yoey”, my nickname, and would chant it and charge at me for a hug. Once he stopped using signs altogether I did find myself missing his wee hands talking to me.
When Lily entered our lives, I, along with the rest of the family, was eager to begin the signing process with her. Miss Lily’s journey with signing and speech was much different than her brother’s, however it was just as exhilarating. I can still hear Lily’s giggle when she’d sign and know that you understood her. It made my heart happy.
Jackson and Lily’s signing reflected their individual and unique personalities. Jackson was deliberate and accurate whereas Miss Lily signed with wild abandon. Both of them left me in awe. Kathy introduced signing to their young lives and I truly believe that she opened up a whole new world for them, and for me.
My favourite sign is milk, simply because it makes me laugh. I may be the older sister but that doesn’t mean I’m more mature. The speech that Kathy referred to was aptly titled “Squeeze the Udder!”. To anyone considering signing I would wholeheartedly say go head, jump in and squeeze the udder! Not only will you be changing your babies life, you’ll be changing your own.
My sister is a fantastic aunt. She treats my children like they are her own (only without getting them in trouble as much as I do). She showers them with attention, playtime, crafting, and hugs. It’s obvious how much she adores Jackson and Lily to anyone that sees her with them or hears her speak about them.
I don’t say this solely to make her feel guilty about her reluctance to write a blog post for me but if it’s a byproduct of my being openly mooshy, so be it.
Anyway, I will tell her story.
My sister attends Toastmasters and her speech this week was about my kids and sign language. I wasn’t there to hear her talk but she’s a great public speaker and speech writer so I can only imagine how well it went.
Jackson and Lily haven’t signed very much for about two years now. We all sign ‘I love you’ regularly but other than that it’s really only the odd ‘please’, ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’. It’s more common to find me signing to them across a busy playground to get the message across that I’m watching.
Even with the lack of signing for a couple of years, the experience was important enough to my sister that she wanted to write one of her speeches about it. She even remembered quite a few signs that she showcased on stage.
People often ask me whether it’s worth it to sign with their kids, some having family and friends who aren’t keen on the idea and may not participate. With her speech, my sister reinforced the advice I’ve always given: people will be hardpressed not to smile or sign with baby once they see a wee one communicate using sign language. So, go ahead, try it. Even if no one else participates, you’ve still been able to see the world through your baby’s hands and that is something special. And, it will become just as special to friends and family.
Signing with preverbal hearing children is fun.
It shouldn’t be stressful or another to-do on your ever-growing list. Signing should quickly become a natural part of your communication with baby, not a timed lesson or test of their memory or intelligence.
I love this quote from Mr. Rogers:
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. ~Fred Rogers
His words hold true for baby sign language. Signing with our hearing babies is about communication, not perfection, so congratulate them on any attempt to speak to you verbally or through sign.
Encourage, play and laugh with your kids. I bet you’ll both end up learning something.
(Originally I used this picture just because, well, it’s a picture of Mr. Rogers with a gorilla but then found out (I love Google) that this is Koko, the sign language gorilla. Pure awesome.)
Tonight Jackson and Lily went out back to play while I cleaned up the dinner dishes.
Earlier, when I’d picked Jackson up from school I explained that I had a headache and wasn’t feeling well so it was going to be a very quiet, relaxed night. This didn’t, however, stop him from relentlessly talking over his sister, telling ten thousand stories and asking twenty thousand questions between pick-up and dinner.
So, I was selfishly enjoying the quiet while they played outside. Just as I turned the vacuum on to quickly tidy the back room, Jack popped his head in and started talking – again.
Sure, I could have turned the vacuum off. But, I saw his face and knew he was either telling another story or tattling on his sister who was still happily swinging. No one was bleeding. No one was crying.
I kept the vacuum on, shook my head as I pointed to my ear. I then motioned to the backyard and signed ‘play’. He cocked his head as if a pup being given a strange command, stood there for a second longer, shrugged and turned to go.
Not my proudest moment but I did fall in love with sign language all over again.