Shelle from BlokThoughts asked this in her comment on my "Chicken or Egg" post: "How do your daughters communicate? Did you teach them sign language? Are they fluent in it?" Sunday from Adventures in Extreme Parenthood also asked me in e-mail almost the same thing as well.
I will tell you this...it was very frustrating for me to try to understand what my daughters were saying as they went through their babbling stage and their mispronounciation of words stage. What most people don't realize is how equally frustrating it can be for them when their daddy cannot comprehend what is being said to him.
You could be thinking "What about his hearing wife?" Yes, she does step in and help clear up the chaotic messages...when she is there. She has a job so she can't be there 24/7. Now, you can see how frustrating it can be for all of us.
My wife and I knew long before we even started thinking about having a family that teaching the babies basic signs would greatly reduce the frustration of expressing their needs. Research has backed that up many times over. Babies do not learn how to speak words for a long while and they need a way to tell us what they need. As you can see, it really doesn't matter if both parents are hearing when it comes to decoding what the baby wants...as long as the baby has a way to express it clearly.
Basic signs like "drink", "eat", "milk", "play", and "hold me" helped my girls express their needs. As they grew up, my wife and I would add signs to their vocabulary. The funny thing is...their exponential rate of learning the signs would begin to level off as they start to learn how to speak and form complete sentences.
They seem to prefer to speak to me than to sign to me, forcing me to read their lips. My wife and I have been trying to get them to sign to me so we could understand each other. I would think that the family dynamic is different for us versus those of all-hearing families because of that. How so? Since we are all "bilingual" (meaning we can speak or sign), we can choose how to communicate with each other in the presence of others.
For instance - while my mom was visiting us last week, my wife was ticked off that I hadn't cleaned the dining table off and used sign language to express her feelings. I signed back to her, "My mom may not understand sign language, but she sure can read body language." My body language was that of a calm person.
Imagine how I can choose to deal with my daughters when they misbehave in the public. I can talk to them either in the privacy of sign language or without the privacy by speaking to them. Believe me, they rarely misbehave in the public...because they don't know which way I'll go and they don't want to find out. ;)