At nearly 9 months old (on the 30th, but I’m pretty sure if you were to measure in 4 week intervals, which is what the baby books I never read go by he’d be a little older than that. I’m far too lazy to attempt math right now), I am shocked and appalled to inform you that not only has Alex NOT learned to drive a car, but he’s not been to Gymboree even once, NOR can he do EVEN SIMPLE long division. Why the other day, I handed him The Communist Manifesto and rather than engaging me in a riveting discussion of the proletariat versus the bourgeois pigs, HE STUCK THE BOOK IN HIS MOUTH AND STARTED CHEWING! On Carl Marx! WHAT HAVE I DONE WRONG, oh Lord, TO HAVE SUCH A STUPID BABY?
While I have no problems with parents who have decided that they must somehow increase their baby’s brain development by playing Strauss or Beethoven, use flashcards to inflict French on them, or run them around town to various “brain nurturing activities,” I personally see no reason to do so.
If you are a brand-new parent who has never watched another child grow up, it would be extremely easy to get suckered into what all of the Baby-zines tell you to do to make your baby smarter. Why open one up for yourself and see! Most of the articles are not devoted to helping parents get a night off (which is really what’s necessary), but blaring in bold titles simple ways to increase your babies IQ. And to pour salt in the wound of a tired, bleary eyed parent who cannot remember where she put her coffee let alone what her babies middle name is by decreeing that if you DO NOT do such things, IT’S YOUR FAULT WHEN YOUR CHILD BECOMES A DROOLING CART COLLECTOR and NOT a member of MENSA.
I smell bullshit.
I’ll admit here and now that I spent a goodly time trying to teach Ben his colors and alphabet before he was a year old. I was gleeful when he eventually learned them, but I’m guessing it was a built-in defense mechanism that actually allowed him to regurgitate “red” when I demanded he tell me what color the damned stoplight was. I shudder to imagine what would’ve happened had he been unable to do so, although I’m guessing it would have been copious amounts of my own brain matter combusting through my eyeballs and spattering the windshield of my car.
It was fortunate for the both of us that due to my own brain being occupied by such matters of having to learn the origin/insertion of each muscle in the body, along with the name of said muscle, it’s action, and auxillary muscles involved with each movement of said muscle (in a week. And that was just PART of the class), otherwise The Bettering of Ben Movement might have gotten a ickle bit hairy for us all.
Let’s say a collective “Whew” for Ben and move on, eh?
It was shortly after Ben’s second birthday that I noticed an interesting phenomenon: no matter WHAT I did, the kid was absorbing stuff like a sponge. (With the aid of therapy) words became intelligable and varied, songs were sung, colors were identified WITHOUT prompting, and he figured out how to reprogram ALL of my father’s electronic devices within toddler range: WITHOUT MY HELP OR GUIDANCE (although Lord knows I’d have gleefully taught him to do this this just to piss my father off.)
We did a weekly Gymboree Day along with a Kindermusic Day and he thrived. Flourished. He started preschool at age 3 simply because he needed to socialization that I could not provide with my decided lack of other children, and it was there that they taught him French (which he now speaks fluently).
And now that Alex is here, I waste almost no time worrying that I don’t stimulate him enough and that we’re not involved in enough things to make him smarter and more accomplished than other kids his age. I considered starting Gymboree with him a couple of months ago but quickly quashed that idea when I realized that although I was apt to meet other parents there, I was still wearing my maternity underwear and no matter what, this meant I wasn’t about to start getting more social (like anyone else was likely to notice my undergarments or something.) I’m holding out until I can find a pair of unstained pants to wear.
So now I say so what if my kid isn’t as advanced as everyone else’s? I don’t spend my days OR nights reading up on what his latest developmental milestones should be because really, I don’t give a shit (besides, I get sick of being bombarded by the “you should do MORE for your baby” guilt-trip that are inherant to these books. Hell, I think this baby should do more for ME. Like make me coffee and fix my car, even if he needs me to get out the wrenches from the higher cupboards. I’ll make THAT concession for him.).
And I comfort myself knowing that in a world where all other children will be far more advanced than my own, we will always need more cart collectors.
Am I missing something about the intellectualization of our babies? I’m not sure where “good enough” became a bad thing to be, because where I came from, I’m pretty certain that my parents spent more time worrying about how to furnish their next bong rather than making sure that their kids were stimulated within an inch of their lives.
I don’t see anything wrong with just letting kids be kids, and although I bought Alex and Ben some educational toys to play with for Christmas, I have no problem allowing either of them to simply play with a cheap spatula and (likely lead-filled) metal bowl. I’m not upset that Ben would sometimes opt to play with Alex’s toys rather than more age-appropriate stuff for him, and when either of them does a totally dumbass thing, my brain doesn’t explode in frustration, I just write it off to kids being dumbasses.
But I cannot help but feel that maybe the egg is on my face here. Is it?