Most of my 15-month old son's communication attempts were running a little something like this:
FINN (LOUDLY): BAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!
POSSIBLE TRANSLATION: Blanket. Bath. Baby. Bye. Binky. Ball. Balloon.
FINN (LOUDLY): BAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!
PROBABLE TRANSLATION: I want that thing, over there, the thing that will either choke me or put my eye out, right now!
FINN (LOUDLY): BAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
TRANSLATION: I want to eat. Yesterday. But not any of those things you are offering me. I want what the dog is eating.
FINN (LOUDLY): BAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
TRANSLATION: Why won't you let me climb onto the couch and jump on it until I fall onto the hardwood floor and crack my head open?
FINN (LOUDLY): BAAAAAAAAAAA!!! (FOLLOWED BY WAIL.)
TRANSLATION: How could you have let me climb onto the couch, fall off and crack my head open?
Needless to say, this game of Guess What the Small Angry Man Who Lives in My House is Saying was getting old fast. I was not pleased with him. He was not pleased with me. I know this because he would scream and point at me and then bang his head repeatedly on the nearest hard object, like an angry drunk, but with more gusto. Then the full-on tantrum would begin and it's a runaway train: tears and snot intermingling in such quantity that we both needed a bath afterward.
I held myself accountable: how couldn't I understand him? I'm his mother. I should know what he needs. I wanted to bang my own head on the floor right next to him. My patience, the quality I didn't even know my character contained in such short supply, was drying up fast.
But, because Finn happens to be exceptionally cute and has this way of crawling into my lap and making me feel like I am the last important human on Earth, I breathed deeply. I gave myself timeouts. I ate chocolate. I ate more chocolate.
And then, like everything in parenthood, just when you're hanging on by a Veggie Chip about to fall into the abyss, something changes. A new problem emerges to take your mind off the old one. Or a good friend calls, the one who never tells you about how absolutely perfect her children are. Or you remember you're going out tonite, sans children, to a location where adult beverages will be served.
Or, in this case, you make contact.
It happened when I was picking him up from his beloved babysitter the other day. After months of feigning baby sign language ignorance, Finn broke out in a signing sentence. OK, not a sentence. But he did sign "more" and "please." I couldn't believe it. I took him home for a test run. Bingo! Within a few days, he was saying "ball" and "bye." He was signing "milk." After months of "Baaaaaaaaa!!" let me tell you, this was no small thing.
As I type this now, he is curled up on the dog bed of the hairiest dog in America, wearing his best sweater, holding his favorite blankie, rolling around trying to collect as much hair as possible on to all of the above. Meanwhile, he is pointing at everything, imperially requesting information like a millionaire on safari. And I am his guide:
ME: Yep, that's the television. That's the carpet. The dog. The dog's nose. Your belly. Elmo. The printer.
He smiles that heart-melting smile that means: you understand me. That means, you know what I want, that you get me. And for the moment, there's no need for patience. Gratitude and joy are right there at the ready.