I have always been aware that my daughter is listening and observing anything and everything, – even before she could speak. I had read that sign language was a way of communicating with an infant. I learned it was useful in cutting down on the frustration of both parent and child when trying to communicate each others’ wants and needs – well, let’s be honest – mostly her needs! When she was 4 months old, I began signing a few key words to her every time I spoke them, and after 2 months of consistent signing, I was excited when she finally signed back “milk” at 6 months of age! I was so thrilled that it actually worked! It solidified my belief in a child’s amazing ability to absorb everything, even at the infancy stage, whether you think they are listening or not.
Early Motherhood Goals
In addition to wanting to be able to communicate with her as early as possible, I also wanted to ensure that my daughter grew up with a positive body image; both being results of consistent effort on my part as her mom. The memory of her communicating in response to what she saw over and over for 2 months stayed with me as she grew & developed. More specifically, it reinforced my personal goal of not using the word “fat” and other negative descriptors for our bodies. I even make it a priority to not complain about how I look when she is around. Our children get enough of that from media influences and airbrushed images of models. I want to do my part in setting a positive tone when it comes to young girls and how they feel about their physical selves, even if it is only one for now.
As a gender that is programmed to care for others, our pre-children lives were allowed more time to focus on ourselves as we sought out that perfect mate, but once our families begin, it can be easy to put our own needs on the back burner, ignoring our physically and mentally needs. As moms, we can be overly harsh on ourselves at times, and it can be easy for that to overflow into our verbal and physical communication with our children.
Consistency Pays Off
Just as I taught my daughter sign language as an infant, I still try my best to be consistent in my positive messages to her. During a family drive in the car recently, without using negative connotations or referencing the forbidden word “fat,” but only telling my husband that I am ready for a change and to make consistent exercise a part of my schedule, my beautiful and observant daughter chimed in enthusiastically from the back seat,
“We may not have the bodies of those super skinny models, but we are still pretty.” With amazement, I responded, “you are SO right.” Just when I thought I couldn’t be any more proud, she said, “I love you just the way you are.”