Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Raising A Renaissance Baby (?)

One of my online mommy magazines opened with this little jewel:

Expose your sweetie to music of all varieties, art of diverse genres, literature and languages, natural landscapes and locales in abundance. Add a heaping portion of pop culture and you'll be nurturing a socially savvy child.

Oh brother.

When I was pregnant with Ethan and knew noting about actually raising children, I was full of lofty plans and expectations. Classical music would be piped throughout our home at all times to stimulate musical ability. Commercial television would be an absolute no-no. I viewed a future filled with trips to museums, leisurely strolls through botanical gardens, lunches with equally savvy mommies at top-notch restaurants. Not a single chicken nugget was going to pass my child's lips. And it went without saying that he would be multi-lingual by the age of two.


The fact of the matter is that all of the above mentioned accoutrement is...well...simply that. This mommy surely isn't mocking classical music. It's lovely. We like it. But was I thinking about that when Ethan was screaming with colic 12 hours a day?And I'll tell you this--when I was hanging by a thread after 3-4 hours sleep a night, I was doing well to get a shower squeezed into my day. My big trip out was to the Jewel for more formula. Elevated cuisine consisted of Portillo's and when we really got all gussied-up, we may have made it out to Outback Steakhouse.

Ahhhh, but Leigh, surely the baby becomes a child and then you can cultivate 5-star palates and artistic sensibilities?? Yes, the child grows. In the words of Love You Forever, he grows and he grows, and he grows. And yes, you can greatly influence your child's tastes and preferences. I would be remiss if I didn't expose him to the beauty of nature, the splendor of art, the wonder of books, the bountiful variety of healthful, wholesome foods. But it's also important to remember that an entire industry is booming--based on the flawed notion that you can engineer a super-child. Buy our vocabulary builder and your little guy will be a gifted orator at age 4. Subscribe to our magazine and your child will have a great appreciation for nature. Renew your membership to the local Gymboree and he'll be setting the stage for a future at the 2018 Olympiad!.

Sorry friends. It just ain't so.

You can influence, persuade , extol, recite, expose, and impart your mommy patootie off. Some of it will sink in. A lot of it will not. Case in point. I'm a reader. I loved books and everything about them my entire life. The texture, the print, the smell. I own hundreds. I lived for the library as a child. At any given time, I usually have at least one novel and a couple of works of non-fiction sitting on my nightstand. My days start and end with the written word. I have read to Ethan nearly every day of his life. You would think that he just loves the library, right?

Negative. He heads straight for the videos and then for the computers to play games. And yes, I impose the obligatory edict: Ethan, you must choose three books before you do anything else in this library. He capitulates, saunters to the stacks, chooses three books with little or no interest, and then scrambles back to the video section with visible relief. The good news is that Ethan is already past grade level in his reading ability and comprehension. But does he relish the experience? Does he love reading for reading's sake? Not on your life.

Surely my love of books has had some impact on him. But I can't discount the observation that much of him is hard wired. You know--organic. I doubt his reading skills will ever fail him. But he's not a budding Hemingway either. And that is just fine. As Oracle says, "I'm not going crazy over it". You do your best, provide a wide variety of opportunities and give your child the time to discover his own interests and talents. But you can't build a super-kid with a set of blueprints. Our little people are far more complicated than that.

And much more interesting.

(As far as my children's exposure to pop culture...that topic deserves a post all of its own. More later.)

No comments: