Parents Don’t Talk to Your Baby Too Much

Learning to talk on the phone

Many of Rocky’s friends attend speech therapy. Either they are delayed or they just can’t articulate the way they should. If your child is in this boat, know you are in good company. My child is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve only encountered a couple of children his age that are at least somewhat like him so far but I know there have to be more children who are extremely verbal. Exhaustingly so at times. I’m beginning to think that my methods were overkill now that I hear myself debating with a barely 5 year-old and his arguments are sometimes really reasonable. How did it come to this?

At a time when I was going strictly by the books, all the experts were telling me that I should talk to my baby constantly. Even if they can’t answer back, the pros advised, they do absorb the language this way. Let me just say that it felt so unnatural and ridiculous to be talking to an infant all day, it pretty much felt like I was talking to myself. Or like a bag lady with a doll. I persevered because that is what I was advised and I felt very sympathetic towards this child who was taken from the womb at 28 weeks through no fault of his own. Doctors told me he would be at risk for developmental problems that we wouldn’t know about until he was older. I felt like I had to do everything I could to make it up to him. There I was like a fool, narrating whatever we did, day after day. “I’m going to get myself a drink from the refrigerator now. Hear the noise it makes? I think I’ll choose this juice today. Hey, look out the window. There is the UPS driver. He is delivering packages….”

Rocky’s first birthday finally arrived and still not much was happening on the speech front. He was small for his age (16 lbs) but his motor skills were there. Not all kids speak this early but I was aware of several babies we’d met who had a number of words under their belts already. Come on, Rocky, you can do it. He learned to walk on his actual due date (whew) and he could point to things when I gave him the word but still not much going on speech wise at 18 months. Just a few basic words. His development therapist said he was doing as expected for a preemie. That was a good sign but what about all this talking I’ve been doing, I thought, is it sinking in at all?

By 2 years he knew all the letters from the letter blocks he studied and could maneuver them into simple words like “me” and “up”. After that, the words came like a flood. Almost in sentences. Hubby and I were so excited at this development. It turned out to be too much of a good thing.

You see, since we didn’t spend much time on baby talk, Rocky didn’t either. I got a few precious months of “twinkle, twinkle little tar” and then he figured out the correct sounds and tried his best to mimic an adult’s speech. As an only child with no young cousins nearby, adult speech is mostly what he heard.

Fast forward to now that Rocky is 5. I spend my days having these conversations about how things work, why things are and hearing him explain things he learned from the Discovery channel to me. It is not enough to say “the water from the sink goes down these pipes into the sewer”. He wants to know where it goes from there, what happens at the water treatment plant, etc.  Also bigger concepts like death and human behavior. I can often be found at the library or on the internet finding answers. His father thinks the same way so sometimes I defer to him. But I don’t want to fall too far behind! I know my mother-in-law claims that she had similar experiences with my husband as a child so some of it is probably genetic but mostly I think she intuitively talked to him a lot as well, he was an only child at the time. He has not been an outgoing chatterbox since I’ve known him, though. Mom says I was precocious but I know I was never as logical and, well, being number 3 out of 4 kids, there just isn’t much of a record. Some of it had to relate to the advice I got about talking (and reading) to baby from day one.

Most kids his age, when I ask them a question, they give me a simple one or two word reply or shy away entirely. Watch out if you are a casual acquaintance who happens to ask my child a question to be polite. You just may get the four minute answer. For example, several people asked him what he was going to be for Halloween. “Well,” he starts. Okay, I know this is going to take a while so I’ll just be over there reading my magazine. “I was going to be a pirate like I was last year but my school is having a costume parade and we can’t bring weapons. How can I be a pirate without my sword? So for that I am going to wear the astronaut flight suit that mom got me for my space party when I turned 5. I told her I appreciate that she got me that suit but I decided not to wear it for the party because….Do you know what NASA stands for?… After that…” Please feel free to say excuse me and walk away if you need to leave.

***The Gen X Moms are no longer writing as a group (too many scheduling conflicts) but you can continue reading about my adventures with Rocky on my new blog at:

http://www.jedismama.com

Encouraging Your Child’s Musical Interests

When is the right time to enroll your child in music lessons? According to various “experts” whose advice I read when researching this question for myself, it can be anywhere from 18 months to 7 years old. Come on, can a toddler really learn an instrument? Well, probably not, but that is the time to expose them to rhythm and movement. They can learn to identify instruments and how they sound. Good information but that wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted to know when is the time to start playing an instrument. All I knew was that my then 3-year-old seemed to have an inclination towards musical instruments that I wanted to encourage.

Rocky at the piano

What I did find out is that most children who start very young begin with either piano or violin. Apparently they just don’t have the lung capacity/lip movements for horns and woodwinds and many strings require much more dexterity than little ones have yet. My grandfather gifted us a lovely upright Steinway piano. I’d start there.

Once I decided on an instrument, I began calling various music schools. Interestingly enough, only two called me back. Though they offered to send someone to my home, the prices were too rich for my blood, upwards of $140 for 4 half hour lessons a month. Frustrated, I went to talk to the owner of a local music store for guidance. He assured me that if a child could recognize his letters, he could learn to read music and play piano. He recommended someone who had experience with young students and her prices were reasonable. My son liked her and so we began the journey.

Rocky was just turning 4 when he started and I didn’t know what to expect. Would he lose interest? Could he physically sit still long enough to learn? Were his fingers strong enough? These were all issues when my sister tried to teach her little ones piano. They were just not having it and there she sits with a background in music and a fabulous baby grand that the kids don’t want to do anything with but pluck the keys now and again. Which just goes to show you – you can’t force a child to learn an instrument, he has to want to learn it. At least a little bit.

Surprisingly, Rocky turned out to be one of those kids who wants to play piano. One year later, he is making amazing progress and genuinely enjoys his lessons. I’m not going to lie, getting him to practice on a regular basis hasn’t always been easy. I’ve resorted to bribes and even threatened to stop taking him to lessons (fingers crossed – don’t call my bluff!). At 5, he’s now gotten to the point where he sits at the piano for his own pleasure. He even asked for a metronome for his birthday. Recently he started singing and playing at the same time. If you’ve ever tried to do this, it is challenging. I sure hope he sticks with it longer than I did (still stuck at the easy level music). I don’t expect him to be a full on musician, though he can if he wants to be. I just want him to have the background to pursue it just for the joy of it at any time in his life. Maybe one day he can teach me!

***The Gen X Moms are no longer writing as a group (too many scheduling conflicts) but you can continue reading about my adventures with Rocky on my new blog at:

http://www.jedismama.com

Questions From a 4-Year-Old

Following in Daddy's footsteps

When I start kindergarten, will you get me a real cell phone? What if the teacher asks me to read something and I can’t do it? What if she’s too busy to answer all my questions? Mom, I might need to ask you!

I can’t stay little, I have to grow up and be a man just like Daddy! Will I need to shave, too? You need to buy me an electric razor so I’ll be ready.

When I get married we are going to need a bigger bed so my wife can cuddle with us, too. You mean we have to move to a different house? I REALLY don’t want to. What if I don’t find a wife? Can I stay with you and Daddy?

Will you come to my wedding?

Mommy, when I go to school you are going to miss me too much. Will you be sad?

You said I’d go to school when I’m 5 so how can my birthday be after I start school? I’ll still be 4! We should have my birthday first.

If you die, is it okay for Daddy to be the boss?

Is Santa watching me ALL the time? I guess I have to be on the naughty list because I don’t think I can be good that much.

A Wish Fulfilled

We are no longer writing as Gen X Moms but you can find me at www.jedismama.com. Don’t forget to update your bookmark!

Chateau Lake Louise

Ice skating on Lake Louise

I first learned about Lake Louise in a book I read about some of the world’s most romantic locations.  I saw a photo of a grand old-fashioned hotel and there were people dressed in Victorian era clothes, ice skating on the frozen lake just below it.  The lake is located in the majestic Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park, Alberta.  I fell in love with the idea of the Chateau Lake Louise and told my husband that skating on the lake was on my list of things to do before I die.  “It looks REALLY cold there,” said my SoCal guy.  “I’ll take you there in the summer”.  He did and we had an amazing time hiking in the area.  The place was gorgeous, the only way to describe it is that it is like being inside of a postcard.  But I still longed to ice skate on that lake.

View from our room

Million dollar view from our room

Years later I got word from my Canadian buddy, a friend from college who is now a successful wildlife photographer in the area (his work is awesome, check it out at www.wildernessprints.com).  “Guess what?” he says.  “ I’m getting married at the Chateau Lake Louise – in March!  Come and skate!  And kids are welcome.”  Well he didn’t have to ask me twice.  We saved.  We went.  I skated.  My little boy got to experience snow for the first time in the most incredible winter wonderland imaginable. We rode on a sleigh and rented a toboggan.  My son made his first snow angel and had numerous snowball fights with his dad.  We made some new friends and attended a lovely wedding.  The special wedding rate we got made it somewhat affordable for us to stay there and I managed to get us an upgrade to a room with a fabulous view.  It was so worth living on an even tighter budget now that it is over. 

The Librarian

Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise from afar

Sleigh horses

These horses pulled our sleigh - what a treat

Make 'Em Laugh

There is no sound in the world better than a child’s laugh.  It is my drug of choice and I will do anything to make my son crack up.  I’ll do a dorky happy dance.  Or use silly voices to tell a story.  I’ll bounce a ball off my forehead or play “hide under the covers” 25 times in a row.   Whatever it takes!

Rocky

A funny pirate

Of course the best laughs are the spontaneous ones.  These sometimes come at my expense when I’m not even trying.  Apparently it is hilarious when I drop something unexpectedly and scold myself under my breath.  Or if I absent-mindedly stick the milk in the pantry.   “Mommy, you are sooo silly, look what you did!”  If I happen to trip into an animated fall, that is good stuff to a 4-year-old.  What can I do but laugh at myself when he thinks it’s funny?

He also laughs at himself.  We took him ice skating for the first time and he couldn’t even stand up for the longest time.  His legs were going everywhere and he somehow managed to fall as I was trying to hang on to him and keep from falling myself.  This was big time funny.  Like riding on a roller coaster funny.  He giggled the entire time we were at the rink.  Well, at least he didn’t cry and give up!

A couple of weeks ago my husband, son and I were watching the Olympics. 

“I think it’s kind of lame,” I said, “that Brazil has 200 million people but only sent 2 athletes to the winter games.” 

“What do you expect,” said hubby, “there is no winter weather in Brazil, it’s mostly warm there.”

“Yes, well, it’s warm in LA but we still have ice rinks.  I’m sure they could build some and produce a hockey team or how about curling?”

“CURLING?!?” he said.  “No one cares about curling, it’s not a sport if you can be pregnant and get to use a broom!”

This struck our little Rocky as hysterically funny, he was especially stuck on the word “curling” until he found the next thing that tickled his fancy.  Let’s just say his new favorite restaurant is “Buca di Beppo” based solely on the name! 

The Librarian