You know what I’m really good at? Talking.
I don’t mean to brag or anything . . . but goddamn I sure can talk. I can chitchat with a three-year-old in a waiting room, or converse with a senior citizen in a checkout line. I have spoken to a room full of second graders, and I’ve addressed the entire Rutgers football team at once. I’ve been interviewed on radio shows and podcasts, and I have been told I “give good radio.” And I never tell my kids “Don’t talk to strangers,” because I do it myself. All the time.
Even so, the ad nauseum repetition of the rules around my house—regarding everything from general hygiene to basic courtesy—can lead even a professional-level gabber like me to mumble, “Jesuschrist I’m just so freaking tired of talking.”
Recently I was telling someone—and let’s be honest, it was probably a stranger—about how I tend to get laryngitis when I am sick, and end up relying on all sorts of hand clapping and wild gesticulating to get my kids’ attention. That got me thinking about how we’d used sign language when they were babies. They’d only ever mastered three signs—“milk,” “food,” and “more”—and since the only thing they’d ever asked for “more” of was “food,” that had gotten a bit redundant.
Still, I wondered: why did we ever stop? Why don’t we use sign language with our bigger kids? Then I realized that I do have signs I use at certain times, like when I’ve lost my voice, and I could also use those signs on the days that I just don’t feel like talking any more.
Here are the top ten signs (and other non-verbal communication methods) that we use with our non-babies. I’m going to start using them more often.
1. Raising your hand on an angle as if you’re about to swap someone’s dupa* effectively conveys: “Enough with the fresh mouth.” (I stole this one directly from my grandmother.)
*tuchus, heinie, tushy, derriere, or whichever word your own Grandma used for rear end.
2. A hand across the neck in one quick slashing motion means: “Cut it out now before I knock your block off.” Or, depending on context, it can also mean: “No, really. Stop now before there’s an accidental beheading. You guys know I let you try a lot of crazy stunts, but this one is getting to be a little too much.”
3. One hand raised in the car signifies: “I farted. Prepare to open your window.” (My husband made that one up.)
4. Another useful gesture in the car is to take the rearview mirror and swiftly tilt it down. This communicates to the child in the way back that just because they’re furthest away from you, it doesn’t mean you’re not wise to their shenanigans.
5. A flat hand, extended palm-up towards the child, means: “Hand it over. Now.”
6. Similarly, a dominant hand raised over your head with a found object (for example, a Beyblade that you just tripped on) says: “See this toy? Mine now.”
7. Loud sniffing indicates that a child needs to excuse him/herself, or go take a shower. Possibly both.
8. A bent index finger tapped on one’s temple three times conveys: “Use. Your. Brain.”
9. Brows furrowed as deeply as possible says to a child: “We are in public so I am not going to lose my shit, but believe me, small person, inside my head I am addressing you by first, middle and last name in my scariest voice.”
10. And arms outstretched towards a child while repeatedly opening and closing both hands means: “You’re not nearly as cute as you were when you were a baby, and you sass-talk me entirely too much, but I still want snuggles. Come humor your mother with a hug.”
This original piece by Gina Sampaio was written exclusively for In the Powder Room, a division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. Image © Tribaliumivanka via depositphotos.com.