Some research shows that there may be benefits to teaching babies sign language before they’ve developed vocal communication. Which is probably why one mom, who wrote in to the TIFU (Today I F*cked Up) subReddit, saw a lot of other moms teaching their babies to sign before they had the ability to speak.
The mom began her story by explaining that her mother-in-law bought her a one-year membership to a weekly Mommy and Me meeting:
“I go to this “mommy and me” thing every week with my daughter. Not because it’s my kind of thing, but because my mother-in-law paid the membership for a year as “a Christmas gift” to my one-year-old (AKA she doesn’t think I am socializing her grandchild enough and this was her way of passive-aggressively correcting my parenting).”
She jokingly refers to the other moms there as “Pinterest moms,” due to their competitiveness and perfectionist tendencies, but she was impressed that so many of their kids already knew sign language.
“Anyways, we go to this thing every week for an hour and all the Pinterest moms are planning themed birthday parties and discussing screen time and sharing gluten free recipes while their kids stare at each other. But all these kids know sign language, and I thought that was pretty damn cool. So I start looking into this and try teaching my kid some basic signs for basic needs, and it’s working! Suddenly, my tiny human who otherwise could not effectively communicate with me knows how to say “more” and “all done” and “drink”! She can call me mom and my husband, dad! Holy sh*t! Thanks Pinterest moms! I take back all the sh*t I talked about you to my kid on our weekly drives home.”
So she decided to give it a try, teaching her daughter some words.
“Well today with my husband out of town, I didn’t feel much like cooking and since my daughter is pretty laid back at restaurants I decided to go out for a quick dinner. The kid loves French fries and so do I. So we hit the local burger joint and I order a beer, a burger with fries, and a side of fruit. The server brings a little styrofoam cup with a lid and a straw filled with water for my daughter, and I set it out of her reach so she doesn’t hulk smash the styrofoam and make a mess. So of course every time she wants some, she signs “drink”. And every time she wants my attention, she signs “dad” because apparently the slightly different sign for “mom” isn’t as fun for her. Ok, whatever.”
One night, while she was at a restaurant with her daughter, the mom saw some other people signing to each other and glancing at her table.
“Well I notice a couple tables away, there are a couple of women who are also signing to each other but they’re looking over at us and snickering. I’m like okay, I did like 4 quick google searches, maybe I botched some of what I taught her. It’s fine. But then as the women are leaving, they stop by our table and one of them lays her iPhone down with a message typed out for me to read. It says something to the effect of “she’s calling you ‘dumb’ and telling you she wants to drink alcohol”.
It turns out the mom had taught her daughter the signs for certain words incorrectly, so instead of just asking for a drink (of water), the baby was signing that she wanted a drink of alcohol. And instead of the sign for “dad,” the baby was using the sign for “dumb.”
“I’m like… wait… what? So she continues to show me that I have in fact taught my daughter the wrong signs, that there are different signs for “drink (non-alcoholic beverage)” and “drink alcohol” and by balling her first up instead of using a flat hand at her forehead, my daughter has been calling me dumb instead of dad which was already wrong obviously since I am her mom. I can only imagine what the Pinterest moms would’ve done had I shown up next week with my kid asking to drink liquor.”
One of the women showed her the correct signs, which was great because imagine how embarrassing it would have been if her kid asked for alcohol in front of the Pinterest moms.
“TL;DR ASL is hard, and my baby has been asking me for alcohol all week due to improper signing
Edit: Thanks, everyone! I’m glad you all enjoyed this post. Please understand that the conversation that took place with the deaf women was totally lighthearted, they were not correcting our signing to be rude or in thinking that I was trying to teach my child proper ASL. They were not oblivious to the fact that baby signing is not the same as ASL. They just thought my baby was cute and used the coincidence to strike up conversation, and it was funny and welcome!”
The mom pointed out that the conversation with the deaf women was very light-hearted and not at all rude or condescending. They just thought it was funny, and she said it was a very welcome conversation.
The post got a ton of attention and laughs on Reddit, with some people sharing their own similar mistakes with ASL.
“HEY, DUMMY, I WANT SHOTS!”
“As a child of Deaf parents and being a certified ASL interpreter, I 100% believe this happened. I’ve ‘heard’ and seen far, far, FAR worse.”
“Yeah my little sister couldn’t say fire truck, instead it came out as fire F*ck, it was hilarious, my parents use to tell me of all the time for getting her to say it, such a shame when she finally started saying it right ?”
“My older sister couldn’t say Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was always “Kenfucky Tried Chichen.” She must have had issues with it pretty late, because she’s two years older than me, and I can remember getting her to say it repeatedly.”
“In my ASL 101 class, a guy tried signing that he visited his grandma over the weekend.
He instead signed that he fucked his grandma over the weekend. I corrected him quickly and had to explain why his sign was wrong. That was fun.”
“A buddy of mine told me about her ASL class, which was one of those multi-hour college classes with a lunch break built in. Right before the lunch break, one of the students intended to sign, “I’m really hungry, I’m going to go eat lunch,” and instead signed, “I’m really horny, I’m going to go eat some lesbian.” Stopped their professor dead in his tracks.”
Well, on the positive side, at least this baby can now insult people and order drinks at bars!