It’s a sign

As a general rule, all parents know their kid is by far the smartest, cutest, funniest kid in the world. If you’re a parent, you celebrate every new milestone by bragging about it to your sister, in-laws, mailperson, dog.

I think that’s the definition of parenting: Being over-proud of a child’s definitely underwhelming moments (I actually did a song and dance because Monster had a solid number two in his diaper last week).

There is only one thing in the world that can bring a parent back to reality: Another kid SOMEHOW having superior skills to your child.

I got a harsh dose of reality over the holidays.

I realized that I have allowed my child to become the laughing stock of the baby underworld.

Brace yourself:

He. Doesn’t. Know. Sign. Language.

(Pause for gasps of horror.)

How the crap was I supposed to know that my kid should be artfully gesticulating that he wants more food or drink instead of banging his hands on his tray while screaming and then pointing at whatever it is I’m eating?

My 16-month old niece appears to be fluent in sign languange. She makes two shadow-puppet ducks kiss each other, and that means “more.” She rubs her chest, and that means “please.” She makes the same gesture I make when asking David if he wants another vodka tonic, and that means, “drink.”

Here I was thinking that singing to Monster in Spanish was me being “educational” and “forward-thinking.” I thought singing “Tengo un pero y loco esta y BINGO es su nombre!” would win me a mother-of-the-year award.

Wrong language! Apparently all toddlers can speak in sign language and they sign around daycare, signing behind Monster’s back, quietly mocking him for not knowing how to say “I just made a nasty diaper” with his fist and thumb.

That isn’t to say that there have not been some half-hearted attempts to teach Monster the ways of the hand-speakers.

We have “Baby Signing Time,” a DVD that teaches these silent skills. We put this on repeat during the 11-hour car ride to Buffalo. I made the mistake of remarking aloud that we should start watching it as a family every night.

“Well, Kate, you know you have to do more than watch the video,” my brother-in-law said, before describing the hours of work teaching sign language takes.

Gah! So THAT’S why my son still thinks that bringing his shadow-puppet duck hand to his mouth and kissing it is an Italian compliment, not the sign for “eat” (though the two are closely related). Mustn’t allow video to do mom’s job. Check.

But how can I devote hours to sign language when I can’t get my son to understand one simple, spoken word?

Monster thinks that “no” is a joke. Literally.

My niece hears “no” and freezes. My son hears “no” and freezes, looks at you, laughs, and continues to do whatever he’s doing.

So all during Christmas, I watched my beer-bellied babbler “da-da” his way around my in-laws family room, gleefully ignoring our “No, Monsters” when he tried to climb the stairs, sit on the dog, eat dirt, eat rocks, eat ornaments, eat the dog, all the while NOT signing to me that I am the mother of the year for putting “Baby Signing Time” on repeat.

On the other side of the room, my angelic, sweet-as-can-be niece, just a few months older than Monster, could do things like *quietly* find her shoes and bring them to her mother to put them on; *quietly* eat with a fork; *quietly* not weigh a spine-snapping 30 pounds; *quietly* not find it funny to hit her mother in the head over and over again with a spatula …

I know my Monster has his strengths, and I know his shortcomings aren’t his fault. (Yes, I realize it’s ridiculous that I am calling a toddler not knowing sign language a “shortcoming.”)

But our time over the holidays really shed a light on something I have been trying to ignore: I have to start teaching things to my son instead of letting daycare and a DVD do it for us.

Or, I might consider training the dog to teach the baby. At least she knows the word “no.”

(What? Our dog has already taught that child to howl when he hears sirens.)

Signing off, 2012 Mother of the Year.

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