Thursday, October 25, 2007

Raised by Gorillas? Unscheduled play time

It was 7:30 pm on Wed. and I was just getting around to eating lunch. So much for last week’s indignant telephone conversation with my Babydaddy—He wants me to supplement my
DHA intake. I say I eat very healthfully and don’t need supplements outside of the prenatal/lactating mother ones.

We all want the best for our children. The trick is, figuring out what “the best” means.

The need for good nutrition is pretty much a no-brainer. I try to balance my precarious bank account with my baby’s health. I liked the helpful piece in the Times about affordable ways to go organic.
I finally got a garden plot, which helps.

But Babydaddy and I often disagree about how much of the “extras” to give the girl. I’m a believer in just letting kids play. He’s more into the idea of activities. He wants me to take baby to sing-a-longs and exercise classes and all that.

It’s good he wants to be involved. I need to be more encouraging to him about that.

But part of my resistance is practical—there’s just one of me, and I’m not going to take away from research time or from me-and-baby time to run all over the city. If he were here, I’d compromise, and let him take her to some activities.

Part of it is philosophical. I’m pretty sure letting children explore on their own is the right thing to do.

I teach at a university—from what I’ve seen, over-scheduling and hovering causes more harm than good . And I think having children, and later, young men and women, pursue their own goals, not those of their parents, is a good thing.

A former student once thanked me for failing him. He wasn’t ready for university, but his parents insisted. Since he’d failed out, his parents withdrew financial support, and he was going to work in Spain. He was beaming with joy.

In the unlikely event that my child is a genius, it probably won’t hurt her to wait until she’s a little older to start on music, or art, whatever media it is through which she’ll rock the world.

I know my decisions about scheduled activities will involve lots of days like Wednesday, when I ate lunch at 7:30 pm: It’s a consequence of her world exploration. Plus teething again and preparing to walk.

Going to the zoo in bad weather, which I did out of desperation (she was a human tornado that day), turned out to be a great idea. The only drawback is the bad weather. But the zoo was pretty much ours.

The gorillas took my daughter in as one of their own. They played in front of her and pushed one another and made her laugh. I breastfed her in front of them. They didn’t mind.

Back at home I took baby to the foyer of our building and, fortified with new techniques learned from the gorillas, she climbed up and down the stairs and greeted the neighbors for an hour.

This is what we’ve signed on for—improvisation and learning from our surroundings instead of arranged activities.

I only hope a few other parents in my community believe as I do, so my child won’t feel like the odd-one-out when she’s older.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maya, I nearly wrote about that NYT article...glad you got to it. And kol hakavod on the improvisation. Now that my son is almost 3, we walk places when we have time to spare. 10 feet can take an hour if you stop to look at the bugs, listen to the birds, pick up a stick or two and then run around to do it again. Keep doing those stairs...they'll last a LONG time.