Monday, November 07, 2005

More, more

When I was younger, and so was he, I took him to the park to swing on the swingset. He wasn't quite a year old, and he loved to be outside more than anything. It was an unseasonably warm day so I thought we'd brave the nip in the air.

After swinging for awhile, he started to fuss. I had grown lax with my pushing, and thought that he just wanted to swing higher. But after a few minutes of pushing harder and harder, he was still fussing. I stopped the swing and pulled him out, thinking he was tired of swinging. He cried harder and waved his little arms towards the swing. So I put him back in the swing and pushed him some more. He was still crying, and I was stumped. I had absolutely no idea what he wanted, and he didn't have the words to tell me.

I was trained to be a speech pathologist. It's really not something that comes up often in my day-to-day life anymore, except for once a month when we pay my student loan bills. But that day it came in useful. Because that day I remembered that very young children understand a lot, but lack the fine motor skills to speak. However they do have the gross motor skills to use sign language.

"Do you want to swing more?" I asked him, as I brought the tips of my fingers together. "Or are you all done?" I asked as I brought my hands down. I repeated this a couple of times, until he finally brought his fingers together in a gross approximation of my sign. "OK, then," I said with a smile as I moved behind him to push the swing some more. And that was the way we spent the rest of the afternoon in the park.

That night, he was sitting in his high chair eating while I watched TV. When he had finished what I had given him, he banged his spoon on the tray to get my attention. "Oh, do you need more?" I asked, my attention more on Law & Order than on him. But then he brought his fingertips together again. I laughed. "Alright then, more it is."

That was years ago, and these days, it's not uncommon for parents to teach their young children some basic signs. PJ and I had discussed it when Abigail was much younger, and I knew PJ had used a few signs with her off and on. But to my knowledge, Abigail had never signed back.

This weekend, Pukka and I went home for a visit. I was feeding Abigail some blueberry buckle when she started to fuss. "Are you done?" I asked her. Of course, no answer was forthcoming.

Then I remembered. "Are you all done?" I asked again, and this time, I made the sign at the same time. "All done," I told her, and moved her hands in the same motion. Then I asked her again, "Are you all done?" and waited. No response, but at least she'd stopped crying and was watching me with some interest.

"Do you want more?" I asked her then, as I made the sign for "more". I started to move to take her hands again, when she made the correct handshape and then brought them together on her own. "That's right! More."

Of course, PJ wasn't there when all this happened, and I wasn't sure Abigail was up for a repeat performance. She has a habit of doing something new, then waiting awhile before she'll show it to you again. But she was more than happy to repeat the sign in response to us saying "more" several times that weekend.

We're still not sure whether she's making an actual request for more of whatever, or if she's just enjoying watching us freak out about her mimicing us. But I'm sure she'll get the hang of it eventually.