One of my favorite quotes from the TV show Scrubs goes something like this:
“Doctor Cox says having a kid is a little like getting a dog that you eventually teach to talk.”
I thought that was pretty funny before I was a dad, and I think it’s even funnier now, as my kiddo nears her 14th month with something like nine words, only a few of which are consistent.
There are parents who will tell you that their babies have certain cries – one that says they’re hungry, another that says they’re wet, and one that says they need to be cuddled, or rocked, or held, or something like that.
Those people are dirty liars. Babies have two cries:
I am a little upset, and will scream to let you know this.
I am VERY upset, and will scream LOUDER to let you know this.
That’s it. That’s what babies give you. If you think babies are capable of making any other sounds outside of these during the first few months of life, you are insane.
Which explains why parents are so into the idea of baby sign language. The argument there is that a kid who can’t yet say certain words (like, for example, “eat,”) will be able to make cute little baby hand motions that stand in for words.
I’m not sure that I buy this either, and here is why.
Kids talk mush-mouthed. They do. They have no teeth, and language is a whole new concept to them, so a lot of the time, when they say a word, you’re not 100% sure what it is. Again, some parents will tell you that they totally recognize everything their child is saying to them, but those people are also insane or otherwise deluding themselves.
Honest parents will tell you the truth – they’re encouraging their kids to talk, but at least 50% of the time, it’s gibberish to them, too.
At the day care my kid attends – which is fantastic, for the most part – they teach the kids basic baby signs in hopes that the kids will be able to communicate their needs faster.
All this has done for me, however, is demonstrate how often the things a kid does look almost exactly the same.
For example: The word “More.”
To do the word more in sign language, you bring the fingers of your right hand into the palm of your left, with your hands directly in front of you. Unless you’re a baby. Then they just figure that any time you bring your hands together, that means more.
Only they might just be clapping.
Also, the sign for “shoes,” is banging your fists together twice. But a one-year-old doesn’t really get the concept of twice, so who knows what your kid is saying?
To say the word “milk,” you raise your hand in the air and squeeze it into a fist, as if you were milking a cow. Which seems great, until you realize that a lot of kids (including mine) also do this to say “bye-bye.”
Seriously, now. How is this helpful?
“What it is honey? Do you want your bottle? Or are you waving bye-bye? Do you want me to leave, or are you really thirsty?”
For the record, these are the words that my kid can do, and her level of consistency:
Can say perfectly:
Duh = duck.
Row-row = Row, Row, Row, Your Boat
Uh-oh = I have just dropped something, or have fallen down, or am about to throw something across the room and need some sort of cover so that you think it was an accident.
Here are the words she can do sometimes:
Mama = Mom
Dada = Dad
Mo-mo-mo-mo-mo = More.
Wave bye-bye, or hello = Hello, or possibly bye-bye, or possibly, “I want to slap you across the face but cannot reach you at this time.”
I don’t know why she keeps forgetting Mom and Dad. We do sometimes use the Ethiopian words when addressing ourselves, which might be confusing to her. Or perhaps she thinks of me as “That pudgy guy with the beard who won’t let me touch the shiny stuff I wanna touch,” and doesn’t have the words yet.
Here are the things that are totally inconsistent:
Baby sign for eat = This is one of those things that confuses me, because I’ll say, “Do you want to eat?” and then she’ll get upset and put her hand to her mouth if she’s hungry. Or she won’t do anything. Or sometimes she’ll just cry because she’s hungry, and not to the sign.
Baby sign for more = Same deal. Every once in a while.
Nanna = banana. My mom claims she heard it. And one time I thought I heard her say it (as did Kara), but never again.
Baby sign for bottle, or possibly bye-bye = She’ll just do this one sometimes. I have no idea what she wants. She’s either thirsty, or wants me to leave so that she can break things.
There are other things Mihret does that are somewhat perplexing. For a long time, we were working on “Give mommy (or daddy) kisses!” And she would do that freaky open-mouthed baby-slobber kiss, which is totally adorable if you’re related to a child, and probably a bit like being attacked by trout if you aren’t.
But she’s totally inconsistent about doing it now. Or perhaps she’s very stingy with her love.
When you pick her up off the floor and hold her, she will also frequently pat you on the back. We cannot figure out if this is because we sometimes do this to us, or because she is proud of us for recognizing her need to be lifted off the floor because she doesn’t feel like walking or crawling any more.
It’s a very perfunctory, “Good work, good work, now get back to the coal mines,” pat.
And I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what dooga-dooga-dooga or lah-dl-lahd-dl-lah-dl mean, either.