x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Read the signs

One of the biggest frustrations I've encountered in this world of motherhood is that I'm continuously having to second guess the needs of my child.

Two-way communication with a nine-month-old baby seems nigh on impossible. One of the biggest frustrations I've encountered in this world of motherhood is that I'm continuously having to second guess the needs of my child. For first-time mums it's an uphill struggle. From the minute my baby, Charlie, was born, each time he cried I had to run through an imaginary checklist in my head and try to fathom what was wrong with him. When the obvious items such as hunger and tiredness were checked off the list I found myself scrambling. Looking back, a newborn was slightly easier to deal with as milk seemed to be the answer to everything. Nine months on and sadly shoving a bottle in his mouth no longer works.

I have pondered how much easier a mother's life would be if babies had the ability to talk from an early age. If those piercing screams could be replaced with a cute little voice asking "Mummy, would you mind changing my nappy?" or "Mummy, thanks for cooking me that beef casserole but it's really not to my liking?" or "Mummy, can you stop putting your make-up on and come and play with me?" Unfortunately, mother nature was not that kind. Or forward thinking.

My shameful, negative, defeatist attitude has been blown away this week as I've made an exciting new discovery in baby communication. Sign language. For babies. My wishes may well have been answered. According to the parenting website www.babycentre.co.uk the idea of teaching a vocabulary of signs to babies was inspired by an American child-development expert who discovered how easily hearing babies of deaf parents learnt sign language. He noticed that these babies were less demanding than non-signing babies simply because they could express their needs and feelings. Scientifically, it works because infants understand language and develop their motor skills much earlier than they can talk. Given this fact, it makes sense for them to use signs instead. The results listed on the Babycentre website were amazing. Examples ranged from a nine-month-old girl signing that she wanted more food to a 16-month-old boy signing to tell his mother that the dog had fallen asleep.

Fascinated by this new find I did some more research and discovered that there are baby signing classes held in many countries around the world. The British company TinyTalk offers classes in Dubai, and promises that teaching sign language to children can reduce temper tantrums and teach them to talk earlier because they develop more rounded communication skills. That is it. I am well and truly convinced. So I've decided to put it to the test. Apparently, it isn't hard to teach a baby sign language, but it requires heaps of patience.

Unfortunately, that's one personality trait that I distinctly lack. I thought I'd start with they basics and try and teach Charlie the sign for drink. Very simple. Put the thumb towards the mouth and tilt the hand and say "drink". Repeat several times. Alas, it has not yet worked. The last time I tried, Charlie smiled and then threw all of his toys out of the high chair. Not quite the flowing communication that I had hoped for. Looks like I'm going to have to sign up to one of those classes.