I'm beginning to wonder if the people who write those monthly update newsletters on the milestones my kid "should" be hitting have actually ever met a kid, let alone a kid my son's age.
Every couple of weeks or so, I'm inundated by emails from all the sites I signed up on while I was pregnant. They're all titled something like, "Your Baby: Month 11" or "Your Baby: Week 47". (Am I still supposed to be counting L's age in terms of weeks? Because I stopped that once I couldn't easily figure it out anymore, which coincidentally was also the time when I went back to work and no longer had the ticking time-bomb that was my maternity leave clock counting down to zero.) But really, I think a more accurate title for those newsletters would be "Your Baby: Only In Your Wildest Dreams".
Like most parents, I tend to think of my kid as on the more advanced end of the spectrum. This is not helped by the general level of awe with which both sets of grandparents treat L. Every single thing he does is met with some approximation of, "OH MY GOSH COME AND SEE WHAT THE GENIUS CAN DO NOW!", followed by fits of laughter and glee at how gosh darn wonderful L is. In this light, it's a really, really good thing that we are having our second baby so close in age to L. Otherwise, we'd soon have a two year old who wonders why we throw out his diapers after we change them, because aren't they filled with 24 karat gold and rainbows?
However, this bubble is burst just about every time I read one of these e-newsletters. For a little while, I thought that L was possibly (::GASP!::) a little behind the curve when it came to certain milestones. Honestly, it didn't bother me that much; I'd just brush it off and pretty much forget I'd ever read it.
But then, after some discussions with other parents of kids L's age, I began to realize that it wasn't L that was off, it was the newsletters.
According to the newsletters, L and I should be engaging in daily reading sessions. In fact, I should constantly be reading to L. When it's not possible for us to be tearing through the complete works of Charles Dickens, we should be reading anything else around us: Spaghetti-O's cans (but really, I should only be feeding him locally-grown, organic foods), The New York Times, anything with words. This will make him grow up to love reading, don't you know.
And to that, I'd like to offer a big fat, "Honey, please!" First of all, I double dog dare you to get my child to see a book (ANY book) as something more than a chew toy. Even the Baby Einstein board book with a mirror on every page (L loves mirrors) is for chewing and throwing and smacking and hitting people. If you can teach L to sit still so I could read him a book....I don't even know what I'd give you, because I can't think of anything valuable enough.
As a further screw you to the newsletter, I have been told by multiple mothers that they read to their children every single day when they were younger and their kids still didn't like to read (even those that are now adults). Take, for instance, my brother and I. My parents are both avid readers. They define the term "avid reader". They read to us equally when we were growing up. I've loved reading my entire life. My brother has only recently learned to enjoy reading. As a kid, you couldn't pay him to crack a book. (He has since developed a voracious appetite for it and puts me to shame with the depth and intelligence of the books he reads. While I'm busy re-reading my favorite Emily Giffin books, he's reading books whose titles alone confuse me.)
Recently, the newsletters told me that I should be having L help me clean up his toys when he's finished with them. To this, I can only manage a confused, "Say wha?" I'm supposed to get my 11 month old to pick up his toys? The kid who crawls under tables and chairs and can't figure out how to get back out? The kid who takes off his shoe while we're in the car and chews on it? The kid who finds the smallest speck of lint on the floor and eats it?
Right. THAT kid is going to help me clean up his toys. Even though the toys themselves can barely hold his interest for 3 minutes put together. Even though he knows what the word "no" means but doesn't listen to it consistently. I'm sure he's going to spring into helpful action when I say, "Ok L, it's time to clean up the toys now!" I'm sure he's going to crawl right over to that awful, noisy car toy that I hate with every fiber of my being and put it right back in the basket where it belongs. Right after he's done with his geometry proofs.
The only logical conclusion here is that the people writing these newsletters have never been around actual babies. They probably get together in their conference room and draw a huge chart on their dry erase boards of all the milestones kids reach between the ages of 0 and 5. Then, they get those magnetic dartboard arrows and hurl them at the chart. Whatever the arrows land on, that's the milestone my baby should be reaching this month.
Next month's newsletter will probably be something like "This month, your one year old should be efficiently cutting his own food and feeding himself with forks and spoons. Also, if your child is not at least well on his way to using the potty yet, you are a terrible mother and your child is an imbecile destined to a life of stupidity and menial, minimum-wage jobs."
If I cared enough, I'd unsubscribe from the newsletters. But really, they actually provide me with some level of sanity. I feel strangely powerful when I can read that stuff and know that L is still perfectly normal and smart, even if he's not a mini-genius like the newsletters tell me he should be. I will not let the Mommy Guilt get me on this one! I will be strong!