sign o' the times?
most bizarrely, she clicks and clucks her tongue like a chatty chicken. it's weird. but she's very proud of her clucking prowess. it's how she says "hi" and "hey, having a good time over here!" cuteness. her other salutation is to elaborately stick her tongue out at you. you go to get her in the morning and she's all "blllaggggguuuughhhhh," impudently sticking her tongue in your face. and you're all, "cute, but that doesn't make scrubbing your shit-encrusted ass any more fun."
so yeah, she obviously has many, many things on her impossibly keen and brilliant mind. last week at the tot lot i met a mother of a 20-month old who was doing little baby sign language hand gestures with her kidlet. i saw them communicating wordlessly, and i must say it was pretty awesome. i wondered what incredible things are on my baby's mind that she'd share with me if only she had the means. words may be a ways off, but surely through sign language she could communicate. just imagine: i'm thirsty, i like the pretty flower, i am tired, i am solving linear Diophantine equations. whatever.
so, this being the neighborhood it is, i went to a crunchy used book store. actually, there are two crunchy used book stores right next to each other ... four blocks down from a behemoth of a barnes & noble. i walked into crunchy used book store #1 and said "do you have a book on baby sign language?" the guy said: "just sold it."
damn you crunchy park slope parents! i will not be driven into barnes & noble so easily! on to used book store #2.
me: do you have a book on baby sign language?
used book store clerk #2: i'unno.
me: hmm. do you have a section on babies?
used book store clerk #2: back. left.
me: you are exceptionally helpful.
i go to the back of the store and not only is there a baby section, but this being the neighborhood it is, there is an entire baby ROOM. books on fertility, books on pregnancy, books on childbirth, books on babies, books on infants, books on toddlers, books on teens, books books books!
it occurred to me that the books i was staring at can be broken down into fairly reliable types. there are exceedingly touchy-feely books on feeling good and making your baby feel good through hugging and acceptance and feeling good. there are incredibly scary books on how everything your child is wearing and playing with WILL KILL THEM INSTANTLY IF YOU DON'T STOP THEM. there are very niche books on how to raise your baby on an all-soy and carob diet, or what to do when your triplets have two mommies and four granddads. there are reprimanding books on behavior that explain why the way you are raising your child will result in her being a jobless sociopath puppy rapist. there are books that guilt you into red hot shame for reading while you should be parenting.
finally, i find the book i need. baby signs. they have three copies. $4 each. i return to the clerk.
me: you had three of them! man, if that doesn't speak volumes about this neighborhood!
used book store clerk #2: yeah, we have a bunch of volumes about this neighborhood. on that rack there.
me: you are going to go far in life.
so i brought the book home and i began reading it. my capsule review: a full two-thirds of the book is about convincing you why you should try baby signs. but you know what? I ALREADY OWN THE BOOK, ERGO I AM GAME TO GIVE IT A TRY. so finally -- after all the introductions, the essplaining what baby signing is, the real-world case studies proving that it's worthwhile -- we get to the meat of things: actual signs to teach your baby.
some of them are very useful. take, for example, the sign for "more," tapping your palm. or, the sign for eat (fingers to mouth, as if to say "here is where the food goes"). or, the sign for drink/bottle (thumb to lips while you tip your head back, as if to say "daddy's drunk. again.") and so on. for us, the most useful signs are the signs for sleep, book, water, noise, little, for the love of all that is good and holy in the world please stop screaming at 4 am or i shall be compelled to to do something violent and terrible to you child, in, out, up, bird, cat, big, all gone, scared, etc.
with apologies to my daughter, here are some signs the book suggests that are simply not useful to us whatsoever:
barney. sorry, kid. barney doesn't live here here anymore. nor did he ever, actually.
fire. we burned all of our satanic jesus-hating records before you were born. also, no fireplace. or candles. so, if there's a fire 'round these parts, we'll probably all be goners before you can make the sign.
elephant: just not really too many elephants in brooklyn.
cookie monster. do we really need to devote 1/9th of your brain to the sign for "cookie monster?"
kangaroo: ok, come on. when the fuck was the last time any adults out there have actually said "kangaroo?"
and they use crude drawings to illustrate ugly legless children doing possibly obscene gestures. here's a particular favorite of mine. i think it means "i have jock itch":
anyway. for what it's worth, progress has been slow. so far our daughter only understands one sign: the opening of the refrigerator. she pretty much has the meaning of that one down solid.