As a “modern” mom, I taught my children sign language so they could communicate with me before they were able to talk. But I had no idea just one little sign would change my whole world.
My first son, Vman, has never been a hugger or cuddly. Actually, he’s anything but. Vman was born with Sensory Processing Disorder, which includes an aversion to anything tactile like touching. As a baby, all I wanted to do was snuggle up with him and coo all over him. He wasn’t having any of it and screamed bloody murder to let me know.
When other children were crawling into their mother’s laps, Vman was sitting at a safe distance… on the other side of the couch. Touching was just too much for him. And while snuggling up may feel wonderful for most of us, it made his skin crawl. He didn’t hug, kiss or really show any affection at all. As a mom, it was horrible. Kids are tough enough but to have a child who can’t show any affection back just broke my heart.
A friend of mine caught one of the very first times Vman came to sit next to me. We were at a gathering and he plopped right down next to me. I was terrified to move… like I would jinx the moment.
As Vman got older, I began to accept the fact that he would never even be able to give me a kiss or hug good night. And long after he began talking, I accepted the fact that I would never hear him say, “I love you.”
After three years of occupational therapy, Vman learned how to tolerate the random side hug from me. Once in a while he would let me scratch his back and cuddle up with me. And sometimes in a tender moment he would even let me gently tussle his hair. But that was about it. Then Valentine’s Day came and his first grade teacher taught the class how to sign “I love you” and sent a print-out home.
I remember clearly the day he brought the print-out home.”Hey, Mom. Look what I brought in my backpack today,” he sheepishly said as he pulled out the paper. Then he flashed me his dazzling smile and showed me how to arrange my fingers to do the sign. “Cool,” I thought.
The next day while at gymnastics, Vman looked up at the stands where I was sitting and flashed me the sign again with that dazzling smile. I almost started crying right there and then. For the first time ever, he was actually telling me that he loved me.
For the next couple of weeks, Vman kept flashing me this sign as well as his smile. He had finally unlocked the one thing he couldn’t figure out before — how to share his feelings in a way that was comfortable for him. Before I knew it, I was getting hugs at night and “I love you” signs when I dropped him off at school in the morning. He’s even developed a way to share a kiss. We kiss the palm of our hands and then press our palms together. It has completely changed the way the two of us are connecting.
Of all the signs I taught my boys when they were young, for some reason, it never occurred to me to teach them the sign for “I love you.” I taught them how to ask for juice, more, ball and all of the things a child could want. I could almost kick myself in the pants for not teaching this sign earlier. However, I also feel like Vman was ready to start expressing himself and learning this sign came just at the right time.
UPDATE: After half a year later, my son actually uttered the words “I love you” one night when I was puting him to bed. It was quite shocking to actually hear those words. After that, about once a week he would say those wonderful words.
One night I told him how awesome it made me feel to hear those words. He replied that every time he gives me the sign, he thinks those words in his head. Interesting that even though he wasn’t saying it out loud, his heart was saying it anyway.
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