Stubborn Toddlers & Baby Sign Language

Thank you for the support in regards to my last post. B was throwing some mighty fits for a few days there and since then, it’s decreased a lot.

I figured out the problem. He was sick of his oatmeal. Yes, his oatmeal. Every day for breakfast, B and C were eating 5 scoops each of baby oatmeal, mixed with one ice cube of pureed pears and a few dashes of cinnamon. Apparently, B is done with it. Not only that, but he was starting to associate his orange bowl with the oatmeal.

Those breakfast meltdowns that occurred a few days in a row were because he didn’t want what he had been eating for months. I was confused, because he had insisted I hold him while I made the oatmeal – mixing in the water, stirring it up – and he would even let me give him a taste off the spoon with no complaints. But as soon as I put him in the chair, the meltdown began. I assumed it was the chair, and after my last post, we switched out the high chair tops to the booster seats…and now I know it wasn’t the chair at all. He just didn’t want oatmeal. (We know this because we tried serving it on a plate – no luck. Since then, he won’t touch a bite.)

On the day I couldn’t take it anymore, he also had a one hour meltdown at dinner. No, there was no oatmeal served. However, I put out his orange bowl to put his dinner in – and as soon as he saw it, he started screaming. He even said the word “bowl” a few times, and I thought it meant he wanted it. But he didn’t.

I hadn’t realized how “deep” the issue had gone – he didn’t want oatmeal and he didn’t want the orange bowl because it reminded him of the oatmeal. Now that I’ve figured it out (and B has taken a 2 hour nap for the last three days in a row) – he hasn’t had a single meltdown. The kid was trying to tell me something!

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That said – he’s still extremely stubborn. C would never have a meltdown over a bowl. She’s never had a meltdown, period. And that’s okay – they’re two different children. But man oh man – B knows what he wants. He’s independent and strong-willed: two good qualities that happen to be exhausting for parents.

I have to say that this was a learning experience for me. I learned to start parenting a toddler instead of a baby. I’m much more on my game. I’m trying my best not to be wishy-washy with what B can and can’t do, and my husband and I are on the same page about the little issues, where we weren’t before, which was giving the twins mixed messages. We’re actively parenting now, and I guess we weren’t doing that before. What do we feel comfortable letting B do and not do? Some things don’t bother my husband like they bother me, but he’s great about agreeing to them if he knows it’s something I don’t approve of, and vice versa.

For example – standing on the couch. The couch is pushed up against our big living room window, so sometimes we all look out the window together. But if the TV is on and the twins are looking out the window, they might turn around to watch TV, still standing. My husband and I weren’t being consistent enough with our couch rules – deciding if they could stand on a case-by-case basis. As long as they didn’t jump or move around. Or as long as they didn’t turn around to see the TV. B didn’t understand the rules, and I wasn’t thinking that he was of age to NEED to understand the rules. But he is old enough, so it’s time to be clear.

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The day after the double meltdown, we were looking out the window together, pointing out birds and the snow and cars. They sit up there with us behind them to see better. When we were done, I sat them on the couch. B immediately stood up and moved his foot to the side, staring at me. I said, “You need to sit down now or you’ll be off the couch.” He took another step; looked at me. I picked him up and put him on the ground. He stamped his feet for a second and decided it wasn’t worth it. That was it – he went to play with his toys. This seems so obvious – and we WERE doing this. We just weren’t doing it every time, so B was confused. Now I feel better, and with confidence- we’re on the right track.

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Where I’m going with this post is how we use Baby Sign Language. I can’t say enough good things about it, though I wish the twins knew more signs than they do. The fact is, B didn’t want his oatmeal anymore and he didn’t want his orange bowl, and the only way he could tell me was by saying “bowl” and screaming. I can’t imagine how many more fits he would have if he didn’t have any sign language to use. It has REALLY been handy for these 18 month olds.

We started when the babies were 8 months old. Well, I started. I knew they wouldn’t sign back for a long time, but since they were eating solids and they sat in their high chairs, I would say and sign “more”, “eat”, and “all done”. Again and again and again. As they got used to seeing me do this, they started to smile and laugh, thinking it was a game. I just wanted it to become ingrained in their brains. Those were the only three signs I used for a long time. It was around 12 months or so that B began using his hands to speak to us, and he started on his own. He was obsessed with our ceiling fan and he pointed to it, letting his arm go around and around. That just happens to be the sign for “fan”, so I went with it and incorporated it into the babies’ sign language vocabulary. If you are hoping to do baby sign language, as soon as they start signing just one sign to you, they’re ready for many more signs. They’re in learning mode.

After that, I taught them a few signs that were important to me, such as “water”, “milk”, and “again”, but I also let the twins show me what they wanted signs for, based on their interests. They went through a dog phase, so we taught them the sign for “dog”. We recently taught them the sign for “snow”, because we now have a ton of it and the twins are paying attention. They also learned “please” and “thank you” and use them appropriately all the time.

Before I started this, I was worried about how long it would take them to learn the signs. Honestly, once they start signing, they pick up new ones so quickly. I would show the twins twice, maybe three times and then say, “You do it!” and they would. When they forget (like tonight, they forgot “again”), I just did it two times and they were back on.

One worry that people who have never tried Baby Sign Language have is that it might slow down a child’s verbal vocabulary – as in, they’ll sign instead of talk. That is absolutely NOT the case at all – in fact, it’s the opposite. As long as you are modeling by saying the word with the sign, they’ll do the same. The twins have a great verbal vocabulary of at least 40 words and Baby Sign Language has only enhanced it. I find it amazing when one of them wants something. If their mouths are full, they’ll just sign “please” by itself. If they can talk, they’ll sometimes just say “please”, or sign and say it together. The signs are just another tool in their toolbox to use when they want to express themselves.

Like I said, my only regret is that we (my nanny, my husband and I) haven’t taught them more. Next up on the list (especially for B): “Feeling” signs – “mad”, “happy”, “hungry”, “tired”…etc.

If you’re just starting out, I get all my signs from one source: www.babysignlanguage.com. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

More firsts = more pictures

I wonder if I’ll continue to take as many pictures of my twins in future years as I do now. In the moment, I’m always thinking, “Oh! This is the first time they’ve ______, I need a picture!” But there will always be firsts – so I guess there will always be pictures. I don’t scrapbook, I don’t write letters to my kids (though I really should and would love to) – I take pictures. I have always enjoyed using a camera, even as a child making albums of nature pictures and trips to the zoo, and now I have these cute little subjects that live with me and spend all day with me, just tempting me to take their pictures. Most of them I keep away from the internet (surprising, with the number that still are put on the blog and facebook), but after I take them all (hundreds a month) either on my phone or my camera, I transfer them to my computer where I pick the best from them and add them to an “album” folder. In every group of 30 pictures I take of a situation, I try to pick the best 1 or 2. Then at the end of each month, I print out all of these keepers at Walgreens and put them into an album. For reference, I recently finished the album for 0-6 months, about 450 pictures. I’ve started the new album of the same size, 6-12 months. My recent trend seems to be between 80-100 “keeper” pictures a month that make the album. If I continue this pattern – well, by the time they’re 18, that’s a lot of albums.

This seems insane – thinking of it this way makes me feel a little nuts. I have ONE album of myself as a baby/toddler – I know I looked through it many, many times growing up, but are my babies going to want to browse through 837 albums of them eating peas, biting toys, sitting in the stroller, trying to roll over naked?

Probably not. But I can’t help myself. I feel compelled to TAKE the pictures, and then to keep them as I can’t bear to delete a memory I would otherwise forget, print them out, and look at them multiple times. I guess I’m crazy. My guess is that years from now, I’ll go back through these albums and take out pictures that right now seem essential to an album, but might not be later on. And when I go back to work in September (sniff) I won’t be around the babies all day and won’t see the cute things that make me whip out my camera (SO sad) and therefore – there will be fewer pictures. UGH. The thought of that – of missing something, doesn’t make me feel good. I wonder if my nanny can take pictures for me…

Anyway, this week proved there’s no stopping my camera adventures as the babies experienced more firsts, both good and bad.

B popped his first tooth finally, at 8 months old. It’s still small, a little spike, but it’s there and he’s making the weirdest faces and noises, trying to figure out what’s in his mouth. I was surprised by the lack of drool – I expected buckets to just pour out – but that never happened. He drooled a little, but barely even enough to warrant a bib. He didn’t seem to be in a ton of pain either – maybe a little fussier for a few days but that was it.

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I made this picture large; you can kind of see it on the bottom as B goes in for the kill on that plastic fork. No teeth for C still, but she’s definitely teething. I would expect her first to come out soon.

They both got their first “real” cold this week. At 3 months, they had a minor cold, with sneezing and more naps and just generally looking glazed over, but it lasted two days. They (thankfully) went all winter without being sick. Now that we’re out in the world more, seeing and touching more people, I’m not surprised they caught a cold. B has it worse – yucky gunk just pouring from his nose, down his throat and making him cough. C has some mucous but it’s very deep in her nose – I hear it when she breathes but nothing comes out. Lots of sneezing, glassy eyes…etc. A cold. I have the humidifier cranked up and I’m using the suction thingy on B’s nose. He absolutely hates it. But it does work, so it’s a necessary evil. (Sidebar – anyone use that suction hose thing that you put in your mouth to suck the gunk out? I’m COMPLETELY grossed out by that but it’s supposed to be all the rage.) He was super fussy a few days ago as this cold was coming on, but he was better today.

 

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No smiles for a few days, he didn’t feel good! But better now:

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My babies are finally showing some small signs that when I say certain things, they understand me. There might actually be some basic communication between us, and that’s a BIG first. It makes me realize that as they start to really understand what I’m saying, I’m really parenting. I’m not just taking care of two little dolls who poop and eat and cry. It’s cool and crazy all at once. B and C both demonstrate this, but C seems determined to make sense of what I’m saying. She watches everything I say and do like a hawk.

This week, she learned to give “kisses”. I know, not a big deal, but after many times of me kissing her and saying “kiss, kiss” while her mouth was open, she all of a sudden does it on command. If I ask for a kiss, she leans in, open-mouthed, like she’s going to bite my face but she doesn’t, she’s gentle. It’s SO cute.

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I don’t have a picture of that, so instead I’ll give you a picture of C getting kissed by the dogs. B gets kissed by the dogs, too.

DSC_0342I know..it’s kind of gross. I can’t completely prevent it, and I’ll allow it when it makes for a good picture :-p but then I’m there with the wipes…

C was very good this week and allowed me to play with my camera settings one afternoon while B was sleeping (which is what C should have been doing)…

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I’ve been using baby sign language for 2 months now. I kept it simple, being consistent only with “eat”, “more”, and “all done”. I’ve occasionally used “jump”, “diaper”, and “water” as well, but not enough for the babies to learn them. And no, they haven’t signed back yet – for the most part.

Yesterday and today, C wasn’t into her solids, and when I would ask if she wanted “more”, instead of opening her mouth excitedly she would clamp her lips shut. First of all, that tells me she might know what “more” means, which is exciting. I had a feeling the babies might be getting it a little, because when I first ask if they want to “eat”, they both move their lips like they’re chewing. But anyway, yesterday and today C suddenly threw her hands up and down. Like an excited baby, except she wasn’t excited to eat; she didn’t want to eat. I took it and ran with it yesterday, calling it “all done” – it was close enough to the sign, waving my hands side to side. Today she did the same thing, she threw her hands up and down and refused to eat anything else. I called it “all done” and took her food away. She MIGHT be signing “all done”. Or I might be completely insane, but I’m going with it.

My husband has been working crazy hours, both during the week and on weekends, so finally today we decided to go on a family date, which we really have never done. We had 2 “firsts” – we went on a walk through the woods and then out to eat, like at a restaurant. I know it sounds crazy to think I’ve not taken my babies to a restaurant yet but when you have two…it’s just too much. Too much work, too much crying, too many carseats to lug..etc. I’m sure many other twin moms have done it sooner and more power to you. The thought of it, up until now, just did not appeal to me. We chose a quieter place for their first time and plunked them in highchairs, and it went SO smoothly. They happily played with toys and never fussed. I definitely feel more confident to do this, though I’m not digging the idea of doing it alone. It’s a two-adult job for sure.

IMG_4176We ate pizza, they ate Sophie(s).

 

I have no doubt that next week will bring more “firsts” which of course means…..more pictures.