Monday, February 23, 2009
That little voice...
Yesterday I went in to get D after he'd woken from a nap, and as I picked him up out of his crib something outside the window caught his eye. We sat there looking out for a while, and I spotted a squirrel on the tree outside, and as I wracked my brain for the word for "squirrel" in Spanish, a set of now-familiar questions started streaming through my head: Am I giving D enough Spanish vocab when I talk to him? which leads to, Am I giving him enough English vocab? Should I be going around the house and naming everything for him, like I read about? Am I reading him enough books? Is he getting enough repetition to 'get' the words? Do I sing to him enough? Should I try to learn more nursery rhymes or finger plays or games?
This little voice can be never-ending when it really gets going... Why isn't he waving hello and good-bye yet? Am I doing what I need to to teach him that? Why hasn't he said any words yet? Am I not talking to him enough? Has he already said a word and I just haven't recognized it? Is it bad that I'm not focusing more on teaching him signs? Or that he isn't using the couple of signs I have tried to show him? Am I not using them consistently enough?
It's NUTS. Consciously, I know I'm doing fine and that D is a smart kid who'll learn all these things in time, and there's no need to worry or obsess. I don't believe in educational videos, or baby flash cards, or other "early learning aids", knowing that kids do best when they get to just play and explore their environment at their own pace. Yet that little voice still pipes in from time to time, if I don't watch it.
I was thinking about this the other day, and I think part of this is that there's a sort of shift at about a year. In the first year, most of the milestones that babies achieve-- holding up their head, sitting up, crawling, etc-- are universal. As long as baby's getting adequate nutrition and practice time, they'll get it. But when you get to a year, the nature of the milestones changes, and they're much more dependent on environment and exposure-- a baby won't learn to say words unless he hears them often, or to wave bye-bye unless he sees it done. And so, there's more cause for parental freak-out.
Zach's started noticing part of this, too. We went to Borders in the afternoon and Zach was playing with D in the kids section, and he said it was one of the first times that other parents were starting to ask about D's milestones ("Is he walking yet? Has he said any words?"), and in a way that almost seemed competitive or tryig to compare their kid to ours.
It's hard not to feel bad about not doing everything when every parenting magazine and book tells you how important it is to talk to your baby often, looking them in the eyes, and suggests games like letting them feel different types of fruit for texture, etc. The list of enriching activities I'd love to do with D every day is endless. The number we actually do on a day-to-day basis? Embarassingly short.
But then, then he does something that reminds me of how smart kids really are. Like when D picked up his baby hairbrush, which I have used on him a handful of times since birth, and he started brushing his hair with it. Remember, Zach and I both have short hair, too, he uses a comb sometimes (though I doubt D's seen this very often) and my primary hair-styling tool is my fingers. So he must've remembered the few times I "brushed" his hair, and tried it on his own. And it seems the more I just sit back and watch as he plays, the more amazed I am at the things he notices and does. Like trying to balance a ball inside a plastic easter egg shell (in imitation of a toy he has, I finally realized), or how he immitates the intonation of my voice when I say "uh oh!", or learning how to give high-fives.
It is pretty incredible how well they pick up everything from their environment, and just absorb it. Clearly, our little D-man is doing quite well evenwithout all the extra activities. So when I hear that little voice starting up, I will promptly tell it to "Shut it" and go back to playing with my kid.
Besides, who needs to wave bye-bye when he can give high-fives instead? ; )