Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sign(s) o’ the Times

By Taylor Wilson

I was thinking back the other day back the other day, and this old piece of a column came to mind. It goes back to the birth of our son, back when I was mainly thinking about diaper-changing strategies and putting out stork decoys in the front yard in an effort to ensure a speedy and safe arrival.

Well, he got here and boy did my life go into fast-forward. What the heck did I do with all my free time before he came along?
I must have really been a no-account (read: worthless), who didn’t really want to do anything but hunt and fish all the time.

Umm? Well, I guess there are some things even parenthood can’t change.

First words? Well, it was more like first sounds really. Together he and I figured out that if a finger was drummed across his lips as he babbled, it sounded something like a turkey gobbling. And before you know it, we were quacking, barking and demonstrating all kinds of other important communication skills.

Upon noticing my education efforts, his grandmother, who has a doctorate in education and probably knows a little more about teaching than me, laughed and said, the boy is never going to learn to talk. He’ll probably end up a walking-talking zoo.
I suppose worse things could happen.

As something of a trend among new parents those days, my wife and I also taught our son sign language. He learned like 75 signs before all was said, er…I mean signed and done. My guess he got his smarts from his mother. It couldn’t possibly be me. Let’s just hope he doesn’t swim over to my side of his gene pool as he grows older.
Among the “signs” he learned were: “ball,” “touchdown,” “eat,” “drink” (I didn’t teach him “be merry”, but he learned “happy” which is close) and “dirty diaper”. These signs were all well and good, but he also learned the important stuff like: “fish,” “duck,” “dog,” and “deer.”

As his vocal skills sharpened, sign language took a back seat, and he seemed to consider it about as important as David Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks.

But I also like to think my extra efforts in teaching him to communicate have tweaked his life in the right direction — toward the outdoor pursuits.

Is it wrong to apply such subtle pressure in hopes that he will enjoy something I enjoy? That I don’t know, at least not yet. We’ll save that for the teenage and rebellious years.

I can tell you, however that I ran across a quote one time that outlines my approach.

If I remembered who said it, I would pass that along too, but I don’t, so please note it’s not original. I just remember the words and to me that’s what’s most important. (I hope the author will forgive me.)

The quote was from a son reflecting on his father:

“How could I not love my Dad? This man took the time to take me hunting and fishing?”

For me, that sums it all up. And fatherhood is spelled T-I-M-E according to many.

Let’s just hope a lot of the time we spend with our children is in the outdoors.

Taylor Wilson is as written for magazines, newspapers and websites for over 20 years.

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