Sunday at Mashpee Commons we ate lunch behind a family with children similar ages to mine. "I'll bet you don't do sign language with your kids," my cousin remarked nodding to the other table. She's right - I don't. I thought I might with my youngest son, having seen some other children signing to their parents and thinking it was pretty cool, but I didn't have the time to commit to it or the ambition.
Kids eventually learn to talk, why teach them something they'll only use for 12 months maximum? Yes, signing for more food is convenient but I can tell when my son wants more dinner, he hands his plate directly to me or Ken. This is the international sign for "more" in our house as opposed to the international sign for "no more," which is a forceful head shake followed by throwing his plate on the floor followed in rapid succession with throwing his folk, sippy cup, and any food scraps left on the highchair. It's messy, but it gets the point across.
Likewise my youngest son can communicate his desire to go outdoors by pulling a hat, anyone's hat, out of the basket, putting it on his head and banging on the front door. He communicates his literary needs by handing you and book and then running into the living room and patting the couch until you sit down and read to him.
Adults tend to think that kids can't wait to talk because there's so much they have to say and until this point have been unable to say it. What is it that we think they need to tell us? "This board book doesn't have much of a plot, and very little character development - plus - you've already read it to me eight times today!"
Yes, I suppose it's frustrating if you're stewing in a dirty diaper and no one notices, but if that's the case you are the child of clueless parents not the victim of wordlessness.
What's so great about being able to talk anyway? There's a big difference between being able to talk and communicating. Adults can talk and yet we fail to communicate all the time. People are either not listening to each other or failing to get across what's really important among the myriad of unimportant details we're all going on and on about.
Maybe we should take a lesson from a toddler and don't talk at all. Take someone's hand and lead them outside or hand them a good book. Remember Eliza Doolittle? "Sing me no song! Read me no rhyme! Don't waste my time; Show me! Don't talk of June! Don't talk of fall! Don't talk at all; Show me! Never do I ever want to hear another word. There isn't one I haven't heard."
Bet she didn't teach her kids sign language.
song: If I Only had the Words to Tell You • artist: Billy Joel