Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Williamsburg, 2013

This is exactly the kind of article that makes me fret from time to time, worried that I should be chasing Axel around the room saying "Is that your green ball?", "See the gray kitty. Isn't she soft!", or "Show me your ears!" ad nauseum, instead of letting him pound at the fridge door with his plastic hammer. Of course we talk to him, a lot, but there are times when I overthink it, and it seems forced.

There are moments like today, in his French playgroup (overkill?) when the pressure to provide constant enrichment can seem a little absurd. Okay, yes, I confess: I enrolled my 14 month old in a French playgroup when his English words seem to consist of "Meow," "Ball," and "More." Foreign language exposure is supposed to be a good thing, right? But then Axel just wants to spend the class hunting for a ball he sees under the sofa or trying to eat another kid's apple. He's a newly toddling baby, and he just wants to move and explore.

Although I've never wanted to overschedule my children, I think in cities you tend to hunt around for activities because containing your little one in a 1200 square foot apartment can be daunting. Plus, everyone else seems to be signing up for music groups and tumbling classes and educational puppet shows. The list goes on. The opportunities are there, and somehow you feel if you are not taking advantage of them, your baby might be missing out.

A few weeks back, I went on a school tour, as we've been scoping out nursery programs that would begin next fall. As a group of parents stood in a semi-circle in a classroom for toddlers, one parent said something to the tune of "I see a lot of art projects and things, but what's the most challenging thing the children do academically in the 2s program?" Insane yes, but I kind of got where he was coming from. In New York, where nursery school can cost as much as $40,000 a year, it's a little hard to swallow the notion that you are paying for your child to finger paint. But I almost laughed out loud when the teacher responded, "They learn to be human beings." Right.

I'm all for giving Axel every advantage I can, but I feel like we're pretty verbal around here, and it seems a little strained to try to turn every little interaction into an educational opportunity. I want him to go to a great school, and I want him to learn to love books, but at this stage, he's so on the move that even trying to read an 8-page board book before bed is kind of...a challenge. He has one book he's entranced by, which consists entirely of pictures of cats. I think its main appeal is a little rubber ball that squeaks when you press it.

Here's to hoping that our early literary struggles won't resign him to a life of crime and economic struggle.

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