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? ; )


  1. The kid knows how to operate a cell phone, I think he's doing OK even if he;s not waving bye-bye. Plus, he's European -- he knows how to give bye-bye kisses, all three.

    I think walking around the house pointing to things and naming them just to expose him to "vocabulary" is silly, and pointless. Kids learn vocab in context -- meaningful context. When you see a squirrel, talk about the squirrel. Talk about the tree, the colors of the squirrel, etc. When he's playing with the radio, talk about the radio, and opening and closing. But walking by the radio and pointing to it isn't going to do anything for him.

    Let him play and explore. He's s smart kid, he'll show you what he knows when he's good and ready.

  2. Anonymous9:46 AM

    I know what you mean. I was reading about all these babies cracking up laughing early on and Conrad didn't do that until a couple months ago, and it took and still takes special effort to really make him laugh. I had to just realize nothing was wrong--he's just more reserved. but boy does your mind go off if you let it, right? "Is something wrong? Is he autistic?" etc., etc. And it boggles my mind how Conrad can wave, though we just started doing that one on occasion a couple months ago, but he can't sign milk or Mama or Daddy, or even "all done," though I've been doing those since 2 months! Go figure! :) So cute about Donovan brushing his hair! ~ Rebecca S. ~

  3. I'm sure you don't have to worry. MY little buddy at 18 months was very shy. When I was teaching him English, he didn't start chatting a lot more until about 2 years 3 months or a little less. I think at 12 months, it's a start to hearing kids talk one, two or three words here and there.

    But yes it is amazing what they pick up.

    You know the cutest thing my little buddy "Maxime" picked up from me was: "Oh my gosh!"... And he had the cutest little Texan accent with it... Imagine that in Switzerland... :)

  4. It's hard to ignore the baby books and the competitive parents, but that's what you need to do! Some time ago when I saw a blog-friend bragging about her daughter's ability to read - a kid ~ 8 months younger than mine, I fretted. Fortunately many wise parents convinced me flash cards are silly :)

    DD was behind the curve on walking and talking, which did have me worried, and I got to the point of HATING when people asked if she was doing either. I also got some people worried she was autistic. Now, at 2.5, she runs like a banshee and talks non-stop in two languages. She went from babbles to paragraphs ;)

    We just incorporated her learning into our daily lives. We did name things around the house, but not as part of an exercise, more just to talk about them.

    I do think it's important to pay attention to milestones as early intervention can be the key to addressing some problems, the trick is to determine what's within normal range and what's truly problematic. Many parents are too quick to label kids with a disorder when really they're just at one end of the bell curve.

    D certainly seems to be doing fine!

  5. oh yeah, and be careful what you wish for...Angelina's favourite saying is "Oh crap!" said with the perfect inflection of the voice....

  6. I am the SAME exact way! It stresses me out at times and I have to stop myself from worrying! And Finn is a non-walker, and we get asked all the time if he is walking, and then get the 'oh. well he probably will be soon.'. Um, he's 12 months, I am not worried yet!

    That is a great picture of D!

  7. jessicalovesreadingtoo4:03 PM

    "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"

    you just wrote down the best rule: Just play. i've been reading about reading aloud and the fundamental rule was "make it fun, make it play." and "teaching is prohibited when reading aloud before school" so relax and just let him absorb at the speed that he does. he comes from good stock, he'll be just fine :)

    and ps this is the best picture of him you've ever taken

  8. I think you are overthinking. hee hee He is soaking it all in i am sure. E didn't really talk until 15months. I have a few kids CD's that I play in the morning when i clean up breakfast etc. Eliza is starting to love music. I do set aside times to try and read with her-but really I just follow her lead.



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