Sunday, July 06, 2008

Aiming for Average

I don’t care if my child is a genius or not. I don’t care if she goes to an Ivy League University or gets into the best preschool or day school. In fact, I’d be thrilled if she were just average, as long as she were happy and a good person. Sure, she’s going to grow up trilingual, but that’s because of our life circumstances. These days, that’s pretty common.

My girl recently got a shipment of “educational” books from the States. It’s always nice to get books, but surprisingly, these promise to “expand your child’s vocabulary,” and make the child feel supported in the teething process—like she’s not alone in her pain !!!

As distinguished from what? The non-educational books kids are always reading that don’t do a darn thing to improve vocabulary? And looking at pictures of babies is supposed to make my child feel that teething is normal? How excited do you think a teething child gets to turn page after page to discover, “look, this kid has one more tooth than the last!!!” Nothing against the pictures, they’re pretty cute. But teething babies aren’t sophisticated enough to notice the difference between 8 and 9 teeth, so don't advertise like that!

You see, the book’s vocabulary expanding prowess comes exclusively from clever captions such as “horse” or “kitten.” Educational?

In my opinion, the “educational toy” racket sometimes seems like a dodgy lawyer who sends out mass mailings offering to sue on behalf of anyone who is in a traffic accident, or companies who take advantage of families in mourning during funerals. Well, maybe not that bad, but still.

My girl learns when we read because I demand participation: “What does an Arieh say?” I ask, and she whispers “arrrrrrrhhhh.” “Que hace el tigre?” I ask, and she says “baile, baile!” and rocks back and forth and stamps her feet, which is how she dances at this point in her life. It’s also what the tiger in our un-educational book was doing.

Am I worried that she’ll grow up thinking tigers are all qualified salsa instructors? Not really.

And don’t get me started on educational DVDs! If you want your 15-month-old to play the piano, don’t give him a video of other kids playing--someone I know wanted to give me that DVD--and they’re faking playing…yep, kids in diapers are already inflating their resumes).

My baby loves to do whatever I’m doing, as I discovered to my chagrin when I walked into the bathroom to find she’d climbed on the toilet to reach a razor on the shelf, and was happily “shaving” her leg. Thank G-d she was okay. Want him to play the piano? Get one and forbid him to touch it. He’ll be a master in no time, I think.

If my girl is fated to be the next great composer or dancer or rock star or artist, I figure something will happen to make us aware of her talents and then we can do something about it.

I’m lazy. I’d rather that my girl and I hang out in our pajamas when I’m done with work and the baby sitter has gone, and listen to music and dance, or color, or read, or put on pants and go dig in our garden plot, or walk up and down the street patting puppies and smelling flowers. Because it’s fun. Not because it’s “educational.” If she learns something in the process, well, there’s not much I can do about that, is there? :)


SuperRaizy said...

I agree with you that educational books and DVDs and computer games are nothing but a crock for babies. But children over age 3 really can benefit from them (the good ones, anyway.) I have always used workbooks and computer games to teach my children and my students, and when selected and used properly, they can be very effective for older children.

mamalady said...

I laughed out loud at your comment about the piano. Perhaps I should tell my son that the potty is off limits? Might accelerate training.