Communication is key: The wonders of Sing & Sign

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

One of the biggest frustrations, I find, with having a baby is the lack of communication. Not knowing what the hell Rex wants or is wrong with him when he starts losing his shit means exhausting a list of options – hungry, tired, nappy change, etc – and I can pretty much guarantee it’s always the last one I try that’s the issue.

I was venting my communication frustrations (aka moaning) to the other mums in my support group when one of them mentioned a baby group called ‘Sing & Sign’. Up to this point, I have been a terrible parent and not taken Rex to any kind of baby group. If I’m honest, the thought of them honestly strikes fear into my very soul for a number of reasons, the main ones being…

  1. Babies just aren’t my bag. Never have been. I know that should’ve changed since having my own, but it hasn’t. I love my own, and that’s enough.

  2. The thought of being surrounded my mums who are no doubt a lot more capable and knowledgeable than myself is massively intimidating.

  3. This will come as a surprise to you, but I’m not really one for jumping up and down and generally acting like a moron for the entertainment of my baby in public.

All that aside, the thought that this class actually helping Rex communicate with me was too much of a pull not to go. Also, and not just for the benefit of this post, I have honestly always wanted to learn sign language. I’ve always recognised a certain beauty in being able to communicate with another human without actually speaking. I think it’s the silent understanding of it all that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, so the possibility of being able to have that with Rex was just too special to ignore.

So I went, and I’ve never been happier to be proved wrong. The look of happiness and excitement on Rex’s face when I started singing and signing made me, quite literally, want to stay there all afternoon and do it. He loved it, which made me love it and therefore, not give a flying fuck that I looked like a lunatic as I (probably a bit too) enthusiastically mastered signs like ‘donkey’ and ‘reindeer’. All my inhibitions flew out the Bath central library door as I watched my little boy revel in my idiocy.

After just half hour, we came away having learnt the sign language for ‘more’ (although I’m slightly concerned about that one given his current daily calorie intake), ‘milk’, ‘hungry’ and ‘gone’. And I came away so excited to start proper classes in the new year. I wonder if the tutor covers any more adult words that I can sign at Eamo on the sly when he annoys me? Maybe I’ll put in a request… 😉

The joys of flying solo-ish

So from my super baby-friendly morning, I went to grab a coffee in what turned to be a less-than-friendly baby place. I’ve exhausted a lot of the coffee shops in Bath now (that’s all we mums do, right? 😉 ), so having just nailed ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ in sign, I thought I’d treat myself to a posh American in Soho Coffee Co. I’ve never been in there before but walked past and kinda like the retro/vintage look of the place and thought, why not? So in I went.

First off, getting in wasn’t the easiest but that’s really nothing new with a bulky pushchair and buggy organiser. After navigating a few steps, I found my way to a table and ‘settled’ in, by which I mean getting everything Rex and I might need out and ready before I got the main man out the pram and went an ordered myself a coffee.

It’s at this point I’d like to note that I am fully aware that I am not the first person to procreate and that my child is mine to deal with. I certainly don’t expect anyone to bend over backwards to help me when I go to such places on my own, but what I do expect is for the staff to extend a little understanding and basic human compassion if it’s needed. However, maybe I am wrong and/or stupid in that expectation?

As I ordered my coffee, I stood with Rex in one arm and, not wanting to leave it unattended, my baby changing bag, while they prepared my drink. No problem. My coffee was made and put in front of me within a couple of minutes. Perfect. I asked if I could have some milk, which I was then told was behind me on a stand. Being that I was carrying Rex, I asked if my coffee could be put on a tray so I was less like to spill or him grab it. The response from the girl I asked was to do so, but quite obviously roll her eyes at the added effort this required. If only another pair of hands was able to go on my baby must-haves list, huh?

I then carried my coffee and Rex up some steps to the station where the milk was. It was then that I was confronted with a device that required two free hands to get milk out of it.

By this point, Rex was wriggling about and my stress levels were rising. However, I remained calm and went back down the stairs, where I asked if I could have some milk in a pot as I didn’t have a spare hand to do it myself. I don’t know why, based on the previous five minutes of service I’d witnessed and been party to, but it was here that I thought one of the six, three of whom were stood chatting, staff members might just offer to help me in some way. They didn’t.

I was lucky enough to get another eye roll though as a small pot of milk was dumped on my tray.

As I returned to my table, I sat quietly fuming. Firstly because I’d just paid £2.60 for the pleasure of being treated like a huge inconvenience and secondly, and this most of all, that not one other human being in that shop, staff or not, held out the offer of help. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that had I seen that unfolding in front of me, I’d have stepped in. And that’s not just because I know how fucking difficult doing anything with a baby in tow is. I would offer to help anyone that look like they were struggling, be that a mum with kids, a person on crutches, an elderly person…shit, someone who just needed an extra pair of hands, for fuck sake.

I don’t know why I’m still surprised when people don’t behave how I would in certain social situations. Maybe it’s because I am more sensitive to what might be going on in someone’s head these days that, where I can, I like to offer even the smallest gestures to people as I know how far they can go to making someone feel good or better, if just for that split second. I guess I just feel quite sad that there seems to be such a lack of awareness and/or common human decency in the world sometimes.

Anyway, needless to say I won’t be going back in there anytime soon. I must’ve spent maximum of 10 minutes in there, nine of which I sat thinking about how much I wanted to steal the nice coffee cup sat in front of me by way of compensation. However the staff were clearly on to me as their quality customer service skills extended to taking my overpriced coffee away from me before I’d even finished it.

As I left, still quietly fuming, I couldn’t help but wish the lovely lady from sing and sign had taught the adults a cheeky swear word. Just one, you know? 😉

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