As a young, new mommy, one of my biggest frustrations were the days and nights hallmarked by a crying baby. Specifically, the inability to effectively communicate with my baby. My expectation was low, this was of course, a baby. I did not think my crying baby could possibly communicate until she could speak or point. Fortunately, I was wrong.
During my new mommy years, I also decided to continue my education. As I was degree-seeking, I had to fill a couple of credit hours with elective classes. I registered for Sign Language 101 thinking I would take one semester, earn three credit hours and simply, move along.
Surprisingly, a requirement of the class homework was to attend “deaf dinners.” A deaf dinner is a group of folks either deaf or hard of hearing that each week, get together at a local restaurant for camaraderie and a great meal. In our area, these groups welcome sign language students and enthusiastically welcome others in their quest to learn more and demystify any notions one may have.
With a six-month-old baby, I knew that my crying child would not prove to be an audible interruptive. I presumed if I could just keep my baby happy for an hour or so, I’d be able to learn a few words, meet a couple of people and fulfill my homework obligation.
Related read: 3 Great Ways to Raise Happy Kids
It was a crisp fall Friday night when my baby and I traveled to meet the others for the deaf dinner. I had the meal timing down so my daughter would be taking a bottle just after I would eat. When we arrived, we were greeted with the sign “hello.” I did a “hello” right back and a few deaf attendees pointed at my baby and “asked” her name. I signed G-I-N-A and 6-months-old.
From that point, the wonder of one-to-one communication without saying a word took hold. Locking eyes with my daughter, they began to truly teach her the sign for ‘bottle’ when giving her a bottle, ‘food’ when she was hungry, ‘goodbye’ when they would ‘go’ and ‘hello’ when they would return. Through our class instructor, they told me to keep practicing these simple words with her and soon, the new mommy frustration would subside and the crying baby episodes would likely be reduced.
And my goodness, were they right.
I started with the basic words and also did quite a bit of reading and learned that a baby has wonderful gross motor skills, so they can perform big movement signs. I progressed with ‘please’ ‘thank you’ ‘more’ and ‘finished.’ A week later, I added ‘drink’ ‘help’ and ‘book.’ Soon, crying was reduced as she could communicate and, I could respond to immediately instead of wondering what the heck was bugging my baby.
There are many baby sign language books and video’s available at your library or online. I strongly recommend parents begin early with their baby. Start simple but be consistent. You are only days away from learning how to calm a crying baby.
Now a decade later, I look back and realize that we still sign and it is very natural. Sign language has come in handy to communicate when we are in a place where we can not use our voices but still need to say something, such as in Church, or when we are across from each other in public and can not raise our voice. We know the alphabet and a number of signs that from the beginning, have helped she and I communicate more often, communicate clearly and most important, communicate effectively.
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