I was fortunate enough to see my son smile in the delivery room shortly after his weigh in and measurements were all taken. He opened his bright blue eyes and smiled at family and friends right away. This was our very first baby sign language milestone! After all, is there any better way to say happy, love or show approval or gratitude than with a smile? My son and I smiled at one another and that was all the sign language we needed there in the delivery room.
And since our BSL skills surfaced at birth, surely I had a little Einstein – a total overachiever – on my hands, right? Well, he would actually take his time with all the other signs and even add several verbal words to his vocabulary prior to mimicking any baby sign language.
When I was at my most discouraged, ready to toss the BSL flashcards and take the wall charts down from the fridge, I looked at my son and asked, “So what do you think? Should we give up? Not bother with these signs any more?”
He gazed back at me a moment as though he understood; not the words I was saying, but the feeling and emotion behind those words. He knew I was about to give up on something. He took one of his puffs in his left hand and reached up to me with his right. I took him in my arms and he attempted to feed his puff to me. It was as though he was saying, “Here mommy, these make me feel better.”
I ate the puff and he smiled.
That was all I needed to be taken right back to our meeting in the delivery room. I knew exactly what he was saying, and he knew what I was saying. Maybe he wouldn’t show me the sign for diaper, drink, eat or milk for several more months, but there were plenty of other signs between the two of us.
It is tempting to go through the checklist of milestone as though they are just that – a checklist. In reality, every milestone should be relished and celebrated and the same is true for sign language. I shifted my focus from quantity to quality right then! We didn’t keep a tally, we just learned at our own pace.
Today – I can’t tell you how many signs my son knows. There are probably too many to count. And it all started with a smile!