After toying with (and abandoning) a few almost-words here and there, Avery is talking. And the all important first word? Avery. It seems to be a possessive term. See a banana you want? Avery. Want someone to get you a toy from on a shelf? Avery. In an effort to make my ovaries explode from cute-overload, he pronounces it "Aberry". He is very proud of knowing his own name. Yesterday he sat on my lap, pointed to himself and solemnly said "Aberry", nodding sagely.
In typical Avery style, he has followed up the use of Avery with other important words like "iskit" (biscuit), "shit" (given he's pointing at the dogs, I'm going to assume he's trying for sit with this one) and "nabby" (nappy, his dreaded arch-nemesis).
I've been in no hurry to hear Avery talk. He's been communicating with everyone around him for a long time, both in the general sense that babies do (with cries and non-verbal cues) and also because we've been using sign language with him since he was about four months old.
I remember how exciting it was, after months of using sign language with him, the first time he signed "milk" to tell me he was hungry. He had understood plenty of signs, as evidenced by his affirmative responses when I would ask him if he was hungry or his delight when I would sign that it was time to go in the car, but he hadn't shown the desire to sign back at all.
After the first "milk" hand sign though, he seemed to take to sign language communication with gusto. It would take only one or two demonstrations of a new sign before he would be parroting it back to me, using it in context and delighting in the chance to show off his new word. At this stage he regularly uses the signs for milk, hungry, more, car, outside, drink, bed, shower. He understands quite a few more, but those are our everyday staples.
Most babies who use sign language tend to have early verbal language acquisition, but that hasn't been the case for Avery. He has a distinct babble language all of his own, with repetitive sounds and intonations, which he practises all day long. He also has strange little affirmative/negative sounds which are close to yes/no but more like "yis" and "nah". He uses "mama" and "dada" interchangeably and with little discrimination (he seems to use them to get attention, not really to address us individually). It hasn't worried me at all, because using sign language means he isn't frustrated or hampered by his inability to communicate.
I'm quite zen about the whole hitting milestones thing. I didn't do anything to encourage Avery to walk, or crawl. I wanted to use sign language to help with his frustration at not being understood, not to push him along developmentally. I know that it matters to some parents, but to me it just always seemed like all kids will crawl/walk/talk sooner or later, what does it change when it happens.
Which is why it's so strange that I'm excited to bursting point about his sudden decision to use words. I suppose it's because it is a whole new frontier, and one that means I can get more insight into what is going on in that beautiful head of his. I haven't been pining for him to talk, but now that's he's started I'm keen to hear what he will come up with next.