Personal Essay - humorous look at parenting.
|Read to your child. As often as possible and as early as possible. Make it a part of your baby’s bedtime routing and continue the practice throughout their childhood. This is a known best practice for early language development. The experts explain that the early exposure to language provides a strong foundation for later learning. Even though an infant doesn’t immediately understand what you’re reading, they will absorb the sounds and patterns of your voice and the words that you present to them through story time like a sponge. The words and ideas and colors feed their imagination and form their early knowledge base.
The first six months of a baby’s life are fairly boring. They eat. They sleep. They poop. They pee. They cry. Man, do they cry. You find yourself, at least mentally, in the I can’t waits. “I can’t wait until she rolls over. I can’t wait until she crawls. I can’t wait until they can walk. I can’t wait until they talk. Maybe you buy educational videos and enroll your baby in exercise classes to help them advance on their developmental milestones. Maybe you spend hundreds of dollars a month on the exclusive, top-of-the-line Montessori day care center. Save your money. Let your child work it out on his or her own and PRAY that they are reasonably delayed. You can’t put those jeanies back in their bottles. Once they start on the road of becoming a real person there is no turning back the clock. You can’t unopen that can of worms.
I remember when my oldest was about eighteen months old. I was a part-time stay at home mom and a full time graduate student. I was exhausted and brimming with stress and deadlines. I was tired of having conversations with the wall. I’d had my fill of whining and crying and the ambiguous finger pointing to “that” (which I never could figure out what “that” was). I was growing impatient with mystery ailments. Tummy? Ears? Teeth? It was always a guessing game.
Up to this point my husband and I had done all the right things. I had parroted everything that she said because the experts suggested that would make her more likely to do the same with me later. We read to her every night. Even before she was born. None of our efforts were working quickly enough. After a late night emergency room visit for what we thought might be appendicitis I made a terrible mistake. I made a wish out loud that my husband and I are still working to correct.
“I wish that Abby would start talking so that she can tell us what’s wrong with her and we can stop guessing.”
Almost overnight my wish came true. Abby started talking, and talking, and talking. She was, and still is, the Energizer Bunny of the continuous monologue. Every morning when the sun pushes its way over the horizon, her eyes pop open and the talking begins. She tells me in detail about the dream she dad, or some fantastic plan or invention she’s created. She reminds me of every detail from a movie she’s seen three years prior. While she plays she narrates every action and decision and observation. At the dinner table she discusses every idea or thought she is having while the rest of us eat. When she is in trouble she goes on and on about why what she did should be acceptable and how unfair her life is. She keeps a running list of all I do to ruin her life. It’s a long, long, list. We have named her Gabby Abby and often have to tell her forcefully to stop talking and she tell us, “Okay” and then start up her next paragraph.
Don’t misunderstand me. The constant talking isn’t the only problem with literacy development. Once Abby began to understand what my husband were saying we developed a very intricate code system. We spelled what we didn’t want her to know. And sometimes we would write veiled messages to each other on the kitchen message board. Soon she turned five and for some reason we decided that sending her to school would be a good idea. Her well intentioned kindergarten teacher taught her to read. Big mistake. No more secrets. No more quiet time. No more sanity.