These days, I cluck like a chicken, quack like a duck and oink like a pig. All in the name of baby improvement.
You see, baby Diana and I are learning baby signing. We go to a weekly class where we learn different signs, sing songs and baby D plays with toys and other babies. She absolutely loves the class, claps and bounces wildly to the tunes and then promptly collapses asleep for a few hours afterwards. All in all, a dream activity for mum and baby alike.
So, if she actually learns to communicate with me by signing before she can speak, I'll just see that as an unexpected bonus.
I'm not really holding out much hope. You see, baby D is on the move the entire class. Sometimes she plays teacher's pet, crawling over to the teacher and gazing up at her, enraptured by her voice. Other times Diana decides to navigate the room in search of perilous objects to use to help her stand.
Mostly, though, baby D spends her baby sign class stealing toys away from other babies. The portion of the last class which involved playing with musical instruments saw baby D grab a shaker out of the box with one hand and a jingle bell with the other. Within minutes, she had taken my toy from me and amassed a few other pilfered items at her feet which she'd grabbed from younger, unsuspecting babies who didn't yet have the capacity to do a hit and crawl and flee to the other side of the room with their booty.
At another point in the class, a stuffed toy cat - meant to teach babies how to share - was unveiled and passed around the room so that each infant could play with it. Baby D was first to go, and as soon as the soft toy was taken away from her she proceeded to crawl over to each baby who had it and attempted to pluck it out of their grasp. The teacher - seeing how close to hysterics baby D was getting at not being allowed near the cat - warned me that she may start sobbing when the soft toy gets taken away from her in future.
Fabulous. My daughter is over-emotional and a bully. The two worst possible traits to have inherited from me and my husband are already manifesting themselves in my nine-month-old.
Thankfully, there appears to be some hope. Baby D is learning to be a giver as well as a taker. This weekend, she started offering objects she was holding to other people and squealing with glee when they accepted. The photo above illustrates Baby D handing over her favourite toy – rubber duckie, who lives in the bath but has a rather jet-set lifestyle since he comes all over the house and London with us – to Bolshy, who's quite thrilled because duckie has (rather unfortunately) become his favourite toy as well.
At home, I try to practise signing with D (apparently you need to try to integrate the signs into daily life for maximum effect), but the only sign I can remember with any accuracy is the one for "milk," which involves a hand gesture like you're milking an udder.
I didn't think it was getting through to her, but at dinner last night we had a breakthrough. Baby D was spitting out all of her solid foods, refusing to have more than a bite or two of anything. Then her little hand started opening and closing in manner of the "milk" sign. I gave her a bottle and she happily glugged away.
When my husband came home, I declared baby D was officially a child prodigy and had mastered her first sign. He helpfully responded by pointing out that milk is what baby D always wants, so there was no way that the bottle wouldn't have been accepted.
Now, if only I knew what the sign for "silly Daddy" was... I imagine baby D and I will be using that one a lot.