A couple of days ago, I decided I’d had enough of listening to the 1 yo scream. He screams when he wants something, he screams when he doesn’t want something, he screams when he has nothing better to do than scream. In a house of 7 voices, screaming cannot be tolerated (OK, it shouldn’t be tolerated in a house of 2 voices, but it is especially overwhelming and irritating in a household where the majority of people residing there are under 5 ft tall and haven’t hit puberty yet.)
Several weeks back, I had borrowed a baby sign language book from a friend as I pondered the thought that maybe, just maybe, my non-talking 1 yo could learn to sign. In the midst of this fleeting thought, I had a baby and put the whole thing on the back burner. It only took 2.5 weeks of him screaming for every reason under the sun, to bring me back to that original thought. So, I reviewed the few signs I thought would benefit us the most: please, thank you, drink, eat, more, & pacifier.
It wasn’t long before the little guy was screaming, and I was able to try out my new experiment. I stood in front of him, knowing perfectly well that he wanted a drink, and I signed and said with fervor “drink, please.” Well, it is very hard for anyone, let alone a 1 yo, to learn anything when their eyes are closed and they are screaming their heads off. I imagine I felt much the way Anne Sullivan felt trying to teach Helen Keller. I did manage to catch him between breaths and connect with his tear-puddled eyes long enough to quickly sign, “drink, please” again before handing him the sippy cup. We continued this all day yesterday, and I do believe by the end of the day, he was screaming less. He wasn’t signing, but he was looking at me with what could either be described as interest or amusement–I’m not sure which.
Today went even better. He paid attention to me as I signed, and I think I heard him actually trying to verbalize something other than the word, “UH.” You see, not only is he screaming for what he wants, he also cannot verbalize ANY word. He has never said “mama” or “dada” or anything other than “UH.” Today, I am sure I heard him several times put the letter “m” in front of “UH.” A HUGE step for him!
I was not expecting this little adventure to help him speak, but I do wonder if the fact that I am getting down on his level and repeatedly verbalizing as I sign, has actually helped to push him along in his verbal skills. I have always talked a lot to my children from the time they were little bitty, and they have always spoken quite proficiently by the time they were 15 months. However, I was so overwhelmed when I brought this little guy home, that I think I spent much of his first year just surviving and not speaking directly to him. I know I have not read to him nearly as much as I did with the others. Lest you think I am some heartless mother, I do speak to him, but it is often in passing as I am getting him something or getting someone else something. It is not the eye to eye conversations that I remember having with my first born (who by the way, spoke in full sentences at the age of 13 mons and has not stopped speaking since!)
So, we shall sally forth into this unknown territory. He’ll either learn to sign or learn to talk (I am not EVEN going to entertain the thought that he might just continue to scream). No matter the outcome, I have learned a valuable lesson…I MUST NOT forget to speak into my children’s eyes. I MUST NEVER be too busy to look directly at them, get on their level, and say more to them than, “here’s your drink” or “let’s change your diaper.” I MUST ALWAYS be the kind of mother who loves them with my words.