Tuesday, October 4, 2011

it's a sign



(and, yesterday) Music.

My daughter has a three-word, signed, vocabulary and it feels like the beginning of everything all over again, in the most wonderful way.

So many of the frustrations of parenting in these first 12 months come from not being able to communicate with each other. I mean, that's where a lot of my frustration came from, and I can only assume it's even worse for the baby, because at least I can communicate with other people, whereas she's stuck with crying as her primary mode of explanation.  Hungry?  Cry.  Tired?  Cry.  Wet?  Poopy?  Cry.  Weary of life's existential burden?  Cry.

For the past few months, she's been able to get a few things across more clearly.  "Dis?" she asks, pointing at something, or, "dat?"  Ask if she needs a diaper change, or lunch, or to get out of the carseat, and she will often respond with, "da," as if we are raising a tiny Russian, but she's not very consistent about it.  One day, you'll ask at lunchtime if she wants lunch, and she will look straight at you and say, "da."  Yes.  Yes, you fool, it's lunch and I'm hungry.  The next day, you'll ask the same question at the same time and she will respond with, "seh;lfskdaj;lkhjgl" which is probably a very thoughtful and considered response to my question, but not one I can translate.

Meanwhile, we are all trying to understand each other in a big, long guessing game (which, one presumes, is preparing us for parenting a teenager).  "What's wrong?" my husband will ask when she wakes up crying at 2:00am, as if I have some kind of Baby Wailing 101 textbook next to my side of the bed.  "What does she need?"  I don't know.  Honestly, dude, I never really know, I just try things until one of them works. 

And then, last week, she started signing, "milk."  "Do you want mama milks?" I asked her, and she made the little squeezing sign with her hand, so fleetingly that I almost missed it the first time.  Until dinner, when I asked her if she wanted more sweet potatoes (even though I know the answer to that is always, "Hellz, yes") and she made the "more" sign, touching her fingers together in front of her chest.  My heart leapt - she can tell me something.  And I can understand it. 

I think about the lifetime of conversations ahead of us, all the things she will say to me.
I am afraid of the dark.
I want more cake!
Somebody pushed me on the playground.
Why do I have to go to church?
I love you.
You don't understand me.
Somebody broke my heart.
Can I borrow the car?
I am in love.
I got a new job.
It will all be okay, mom.

And it starts with those three little signs: milk. more. music.