Show Me What’s on Your Mind

by Ashley on April 22, 2014

Sign language

Bert Heymans via Flickr

When you were born, you cried. Nonstop. For four long months.

Just days into your tiny life, I thought to myself, “This one must be broken,” and almost returned you to the hospital. Surely there had to be more sounds that come out of a baby than the ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, fear-inducing sound that constantly came out of you.

I asked friends with children what could be wrong. They felt sorry for me, but had no answers. They offered ideas, suggestions, wild guesses. But there was no answer.

It’s hard to pretend to be happy about having a newborn when the newborn was making me miserable. I loved you, but I didn’t like you much at all.

Finally, one day, someone offered something helpful. It wasn’t a solution. But it made a world of difference.

Her candid, comforting words: “Sometimes, they just cry.”

What an enlightening moment. Those four words did not alleviate your crying, nor did they make the sound of it any less distressing.

But those words gave me peace. More than I could have imagined.

You see, I could not understand you. You cried, and I tried to discover what you were telling me. I was miserable because I simply did not know. And I could not explain to you how desperately I wanted to know.

When you cried, I cried.

Now, more than a year later, you still bring me to tears when you try to tell me what you want. But now, they are tears of joy, because I do understand you.

We started learning sign language together when you were 6 months old. We practiced inconsistently at first, but more diligently as time passed.

You started signing back to me a month or so ago. At first, it was just one sign: “more.”

Oh, my love, I nearly cried with overwhelming delight. I don’t have the words to describe my excitement at the single sign you showed me. I’m choking up just writing this letter to you because I’m so proud of you.

You signed “more” a lot at dinnertime. Then you signed “more” when you wanted other things. More TV remote. More iPhone.

We keep practicing new signs. You tell me when you want milk. You tell me when you hear an airplane overhead. You understand when we’re all done.

Last week, you signed a three-word request: “More fruit please.”

My heart leapt with pride and joy. For you, sweetheart, are my pride and joy.

But now you’ve stopped signing “more.” You learned that Mommy asks you to sign “please” before you get more, so you just skip straight to please. You’re efficient that way.

You learned three signs yesterday. You made a new one before 8 a.m. this morning and another one this afternoon. They’re coming faster now. I think you understand that the signs mean something, just like words do. You match them up. And you talk to me.

When I sang to you at breakfast, you heard a word that matches one of the signs you learned yesterday, and you showed me you remembered it.

You recognize even more signs than you can sign back. When anyone signs “I love you,” you wave and say “bye-bye.” Because to you, they match. Daddy always says he loves you before he leaves.

We have come so far from those first months when you couldn’t tell me what you wanted, only that you were dissatisfied with not having it.

My darling, I cannot explain how proud (and relieved) I am.

I hope one day that you love language as much as I do. But even if you don’t, I hope you will always try to talk to me, no matter how difficult it may sometimes be. There’s nothing you can tell me that I won’t desperately try to understand.



That’s awesome! My kids learned a couple signs but I wasn’t very consistent with them and so they never did sign a lot. I love what a great way it is to communicate when they aren’t talking yet though.

by Katie on May 9, 2014 at 1:24 pm. Reply #

My wee one is definitely taking advantage of her new communication skills! “please please please please please” 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

by Ashley on May 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm. Reply #

Ashley, I’ve told you this before, but I am SO proud of the time and effort that you are both putting into learning ASL with your sweet girl. You will see so many benefits, even as she grows older and has more verbal skills. (My favorite is when toddlers use signs to emphasize their intense feelings!)

This post is beautifully written! I’ve pinned it and shared.

by Melissa D on May 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm. Reply #

Thanks, Melissa! I’m so thankful for your inspiration and motivation. She loves to communicate with everyone around her, and now her grandparents are eager to learn some signs too so they can understand her!

by Ashley on May 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm. Reply #

What I great post. I love hearing about the successes others have with signing. You are giving such an awesome gift to your daughter by teaching her to communicate, and it just so happens to benefit you as well. Keep up the great work.

by Angie W on May 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm. Reply #

Thanks, Angie. It’s so much fun to watch her learn new words and new signs together. Babies are just amazing little beings 🙂

by Ashley on May 10, 2014 at 8:44 pm. Reply #

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