You know what I’m really good at? Talking. I mean, I don’t mean to brag or anything . . . but goddamn I sure can talk. I can chitchat with a three year old in a waiting room or converse with a senior citizen in a checkout line. I have spoken to a room full of second graders and have addressed the entire Rutgers football team at once. I’ve been interviewed on radio shows and podcasts and have been told I “give good radio.” I never tell my kids “we don’t talk to strangers” because I do. All the time.
But the ad nauseum spoken repetition of the rules around here--from general hygiene to basic courtesy—can lead even a professional level gabber like me to mumble at 9:37 on a Tuesday morning five weeks into summer vacation, “jesuschrist I’m just so freaking tired of talking.”
Recently I was telling someone (let’s be honest, it was probably a stranger) about how I tend to get laryngitis when I am sick and then need to rely on all sorts of hand clapping and wild gesticulating to get my kids’ attention. That got me thinking about how we used sign language when they were babies. We only ever mastered three signs—milk, food and more—and since the only thing they ever asked for “more” of was “food” that was a bit redundant. I wondered why did we ever stop? Why don’t we use sign language with our bigger kids? Then I realized I do have signs I use at certain times, like when I’ve lost my voice, that I could use on those days that I just don’t feel like talking any more.
Here are my top ten signs and other non-verbal communication methods that we use with our non-babies. I’m going to start using them more often.
1. This one has been stolen directly from my Grandmother: Raise your hand on an angle as if you’re about to swap someone’s dupa* effectively conveys “Enough with the fresh mouth.”
*tuchus, heinie, tushy, coolie, derriere, or whichever word your own Grandma used for rear end.
2. Hand to the neck with one quick slashing motion across it means “Cut it out now before I knock your block off” OR, depending on context, can also mean, “No, really, stop now before there’s an accidental beheading. You guys know I let you try a lot of crazy stunts but this one is getting to be a little too much.”
3. One hand raised in the car signifies “I farted. Prepare to open your window.” (I don’t know, my husband made that one up.)
4. Another useful one in the car is to take the rearview mirror and swiftly tilt it down. This communicates to the child in the way back that just because they’re furthest away from you doesn’t mean you’re not wise to their shenanigans.
5. Flat hand extended towards child means “Hand it over. Now.”
6. Similarly, dominant hand raised over your head with found object (for example, bey blade that you just tripped on) says, “See this toy? Mine now.”
7. Loud sniffing indicates child needs to remember to excuse him/herself or go take a shower. Possibly both.
8. Bent index finger tapped on temple three times conveys “Use.Your.Brain.”
9. Brows furrowed as deeply as possible says to child, “We are in public so I am not going to lose my shit but believe me, small person, inside my head right now I am addressing you by first, middle and last name in my scariest voice.”
10. Arms outstretched towards child while repeatedly opening and closing both hands is used to say, “Oooh you’re so cute even though you’re not a baby anymore and sass talk me entirely too much! Come humor me with a hug.”
“You’re not nearly as cute as you were when baby and you sass talk me entirely too much but I still want snuggles. Come humor your mother with a hug.”