Great Expectations: Talking And Signing With Your Child

I have to gush a little bit.

Emma and I just completed our 2nd shift at our work share this week and was given a very nice complement.  My friend Casey happened to be working the farm as well and once Emma saw her, she just walked right over and sat down.  Emma loves my girlfriends and for some strange reason likes to pet themDon’t ask.  It was time for me to get to work, so I asked Emma if she wanted to come plant kale with me across the field, and she said no.  She had decided to stay and ‘play’ with Casey.  No biggie.

Casey had to leave half an hour after we got there, so after planting I went over to get Emma.  I asked how it went (and happen to catch Emma putting the lettuce in the hole Casey had dug) and was told she did good!  Casey continued to say that Emma is actually enjoyable to be around.  They even had a conversation about Emma’s favorite vegetables (strawberries then peanuts) while passing the time together.  Casey volunteers in a church on Sunday and deals with a boat load of toddlers, so I thought that’s pretty good to hear for a two-year-old.

Now don’t get me wrong, Emma has tantrums and fits like the rest of them.  She also goes limp when I try to put clothes on her and will test the waters on hitting now and then.  BUT, the girl minds pretty well for going through toddler transitions and seeing what she can get away with.  I also vowed to call them the ‘Totally Awesome Twos’ since I want to have a better mindset going into her third year of life.  I figure if I expect the twos to be awesome then MAYBE they will.  Don’t worry, I’m not that naïve but I try to not contend with the norm.

Now I will say, I’m a pretty laid back mom for a 1st timer.  I feel very safe when Emma is with other people, whom I trust, and I don’t fret when Josh and I go away somewhere together.  I also encourage her to go play in the dirt and try not to say ‘be careful’ but instead ‘watch out’ or ‘let’s not do that.’  I never thought I’d be this way but I guess seeing other people’s parenting has helped me over the years.  I took some bits here and there from others (without them or me noticing) and came up with my own concoction style.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a reader.  That’s where I get most of my inspiration from and it’s not uncommon to hear me say ‘today I read something about ____.’  And along with reading a lot, I’m easily influenced…which can be good and bad.

After giving birth to Emma, just 10 short months after we were married, I became a different person.  Yes, I know becoming a parent does that to you, but it was the feeling of ‘we weren’t planning to have a kid just yet and now I’m growing a baby and about to become a mama-here we go!’  Whatever I thought I knew or read just went out the window, cuz a baby changes everything.

A flip was suddenly switched and I was crunchy!  Not in the hardcore sense, but in a way of I wanted to try different approaches of rearing our child.  Basically, I had no expectations.  Wait.  Maybe I had higher expectations.

I wasn’t very good at the baby talk.  That seemed weird for me, so I talked to her like a person since that just felt right.  I constantly pointed things out to her and narrated what I was doing.  At six months old, I told her ‘Emma you need to lay still, mommy’s going to suction your nose to help you feel better,’ and she just stayed still while I did my thang.  No kid likes getting their nose suctioned, but you can’t blame them for throwing a fit when you come at them with some device that they think is sucking out their brains!  So I thought, why not just tell her what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  Seemed logical to me.

This way of thinking carried through to the one year mark.  In my mind when babies turned one, I thought they began speaking.  How was I to know that wasn’t the case?  I’ve been around kids but didn’t remember their milestones and when they were ‘supposed’ to happen.  I will say, ‘What to Expect the First Year‘ was a good guide for us but I kind of skimmed over it once Emma turned one.

I went back and forth on if I wanted to sign with her as I heard mixed reviews on delayed speech.  But when the pediatrician said she once saw a mother and child hold a 50 word conversation in signs, that went out the window.  We did some basic signing: milk, more, please, all done, water, thank you, etc.  The part I think some parents forget to do is actually say the word(s) along with what they are doing.  I’ve fallen victim to saying ‘Do you want this?’ and grabbing what she was pointing at without ever saying the actual word.

We made it a point to say/explain EVERYTHING that was going on.  I even had to constantly remind Josh to clarify what ‘that’ was or narrate what he was doing.  I did the Your Baby Can Read videos and flash cards from about 7 months on and tried my best to watch it with her and repeat everything she was seeing.  Suffice it to say, Emma talks.  A lot.  It probably didn’t help that my parents called me Maggie the Magpie growing up.

I am also in the habit of having her say all sorts of words and in different languages.  I would say a word like ‘accoutrement’ (ac-cou-tre-ment: French for accessories) then ask if she could say it or get her to sound it out.  She could because I didn’t think it was too big for her.  We would walk around outside or in the mall/zoo/store and I would ask her to say all sorts of words.  She never said no because I think she was genuinely interested in learning.  These kids are little sponges and willing to soak up all they can, if the opportunity is presented.

So get out there and talk to your kids!  Explain every.single.thing-the world is open to them if you encourage it.  Don’t think they are dumb or too young to understand…they are SO much smarter than we give them street cred credit for.  Just because they may not be able to speak doesn’t mean they’re not comprehending it all.

To add to that, I also taught Emma the correct names for the body parts, and I intend to explain to her about the birds and the bees when the time comes.  I guess I would rather be the source of her information than some kids at school or the TV.  Just sayin’.

I know, I know, I could go on forever with what kids are capable of but I think I’ll stop here.  I hope you are inspired to teach your child(ren) the world and all that is has to offer.  We are their first and most influential teachers, so let’s show ’em what we got!

Magpie out!

5 thoughts on “Great Expectations: Talking And Signing With Your Child

  1. Maybe I’m just bias, but you guys actually make me look forward to having kids…whereas most of my friends have left me slightly terrified. 🙂 I feel like I’ve learned so much just by watching how you interact with Emma and like you said, I just kind of pick up what I like or don’t by watching other people. My mom always says, “You didn’t come with instructions.” Haha.

  2. You’ve hit among a really important concept and that is that you don’t limit what your kids are capable of! Let them think that they can accomplish anything!

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