Soon after my first daughter was born, she started staring at me. It wasn’t the glazed, tired newborn stare, but a wide-eyed sort of greeting. As a first time mom, I wasn’t sure what to do with that. When I wasn’t feeding her or calming her cry, what exactly should we do together?
I spoke to my pediatrician about it. “She looks at me as if I should be teaching her something.”
He shook his head. Had he ever heard that one before? His only advice: “Just enjoy her.” Well of course I enjoy her. But what should we enjoy doing together? When she looks at me so eagerly, what should I talk about? Isn’t there something I can teach her? These were new questions I hadn’t thought about while reading my What to Expect When You’re Expecting book. It was quite a shock to realize I had a college degree and not a single answer.
Luckily, others did—and had written about it. So while I nursed my baby, I started devouring parenting books trying to give myself a quick degree in “mommy-hood.” My favorites were books like How to Give Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge and Slow and Steady Get Me Ready. These books advocated what I hoped: you can teach your baby anything. The wide-eyed stare from my newborn could signal the start of meaningful learning time right now.
“What can we learn about today?” became our daily mantra. I showed her pictures of different kinds of birds and flowers. We listened to nursery rhymes in French. We counted the zebras at the zoo. My friend and I used to choose an animal, a composer and an artist each week to teach to our toddlers. We’d check out all the library books on bears, listen to Mozart and paint dot pictures like Seraut.
Over the top? I don’t know. I could teach her the names of all the Disney characters (which she learned anyway) or I could teach her to recognize types of flowers and great art. This focus gave me the direction I craved as a new mom and, perhaps more importantly, heightened my enjoyment of my daughter (and of the whole world.)
I now have four daughters ranging in ages from twelve to three. The luxury of those endless learning hours have given way to junior high school play practices, dance carpools, and “Can you take me to the mall please?” That baby who once looked at me so wide eyed, now says, “I know” once every ten minutes. Yet “What can we learn about today?” remains our mantra and the source of some of our best family times. Even when our mommy-plates become very full, there are many ways we can do this. And that’s what this blog is about: tips and tricks for weaving learning, especially reading and writing, into every stage and phase of our homes and our children’s lives.
I’m looking forward to writing about it.