I don’t know what it is about sign language for toddlers that kind of turns me off. I guess, as a linguist, I can’t quite get behind teaching little people just figuring out how language works gestures that so many of the population can’t understand. I have this mental image of Tess walking up to stranger or a family friend and frantically making a gesture and getting no response or understanding – having them think it’s just kinda cute.
So we’re at therapy yesterday and her physical therapist kept pushing sign language. Up til now I’ve avoided it pretty gracefully, but as Tess has recently entered speech therapy (just on the fringes), I find myself without a leg to stand on. I unwillingly found myself holding a snack while making the
gesture at my daughter. I don’t know quite how that even happened but here we are. Tess, when seeing any gesture, shakes her head adamantly no and looks furious. I don’t blame her! We’re teaching her how to go up and down stairs, what to wear, and are now demanding her she make “sound” signals at us?
There’s so much to learn as a small toddler and so much to learn as a small toddler in three forms of therapy, but it just seems like one additional unnecessary level of work for her. I’m all about Tess learning everything and communicating with anybody she can, but this seems like a fad. She doesn’t have a hearing issue and she isn’t going to learn enough to really speak with anyone. She’s simply learning a small collection of signals so that I can say Tess signs, and that feels very inauthentic and unproductive.
I’m going to say something terrible: I feel like signing for toddlers just came into effect for parents who were impatient for their children to speak. We live in a world where raising children is a competition, and any delays or unusual growth patterns are seen as parental failure. I guess watching Tess learn and grow leaves me feeling that we’re not failing. Tess thrives. Tess is learning every day and astounds us with how quickly she picks things up. Who’s to say she should be speaking right now?
I have been crazy at work so maybe this is just my grouchy side. No one would be surprised by that, but that’s my take on things. We’ll see – maybe she’ll end up loving signing and I’ll feel like an idiot. It wouldn’t be the first time. Still this time I feel like I’m giving in and not making a choice. That’s not how I want to parent.
On a happier note? We ran into neighbors yesterday who switched to French when they heard me speaking with Tess. Tess is smart; she noticed. I love my neighborhood.
We took the kids to family dinner, Irishfest, hung out with Sassy, went to the park – we’re getting the most out of the last days of summer. And the kids don’t seem to mind one bit!