Ziggy has consistently been using the sign for "milk" to mean "nursing" or "mama's milk" since he was six months old. In the last three of those, he's gotten creative, using the sign to also mean "mama," "eat," "Look at me, I'm nursing," "Did you see me nursing a minute ago?," "I want to nurse when we get home," and "I like nursing." The latter of these messages the sign for milk with an ecstatic tooth bearing smile and kicky happy legs. He is especially sweet and funny upon completion of a nursing session when he grins giddily, cocks his head and looks at his father or grandmother or whomever is closeby to clutch his little fist in his most beloved sign, nearly coy, knowing that he is being funny. Ziggy does this in the car, in the bathtub, on the sofa, in the park or on the playground.... The other day, as we strolled home from an outing with the dog to a neighborhood arts fair, he turned to me and squeezed his hand with a smile. Clearly, he knew we were on the the move homeward and once we got there, he wanted to cozy in at the breast.
Nevermind that I know when he wants to nurse even without the sign, or that for some time he's been as likely to simply press against my bosom greedily, or lift my shirt. The sign for "milk" has become a doorway to larger communications.
And now, my verbal wonder says things like "Get it!" (about a black walnut, brought home from the park, which has rolled beyond his reach behind the rocking chair; about the ball he has seen his father throw for Bert the Dog....) Ziggy says, "Give me that!" and "That!"
Such demanding manner and imerative case usage is appropriate for his development. Even so, in the same way we model gentle touching and picking up after ourselves, we are working on signs and words for "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome." The first two of these come rather easily. He says an approximation of "thank you," and has begun in the last week to sign "please." I sign it to him when he asks for something, then sign it again on his body. Often, he thrills and delights us by making his version of the sign which looks like a little chest thump with open palm rather than making a circle. Very well, then. This "please" pleases him greatly, ear to ear smile of self-pride, which often is more rewarding for him than the bite of popcorn or out of reach toy he is after.