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Cassandra Barry and Joel Stein

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Cassandra Barry is sometimes known for playing the role of "my lovely wife" in Joel Stein's columns for Time magazine and other publications. His story in which she ate her own placenta in pill form is the one she's most often asked about. Her son, Laszlo, is in preschool. After several years in New York City, she loves living in Los Angeles, where she works as a textile designer. She finds it weird to write about herself in the third person like this. about joel

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Skipping the Baby Enrichment Classes

By Cassandra Barry |

Joel and I selfishly took Laszlo to The Muppets movie.

Laszlo is only two and a half years old and I already have regrets about how I’ve raised him. Most of my other regrets in life have to do with slacking off. But regarding Laszlo’s infancy, it was about trying too hard. I signed him up for baby music classes, swimming lessons and we attempted baby sign language. He didn’t like any of it. Neither did I. But during his first year (and beyond), I was desperate to see him do something besides eat and sleep. I wanted to see some some kind of hope that this useless little lump of flesh had the potential for fun.

I had thought that Laszlo was going to learn about things like Mozart or chord progressions in his baby music class. It turns out that baby music class is just a woman singing songs to a circle of apathetic babies, exhausted moms and bored nannies. If you’re lucky, this teacher will be someone with nerve-wracking amounts of energy who smiles a lot. During class , I awkwardly mumbled along to the words of songs I didn’t know while trying to look like I was somewhat enjoying myself. Meanwhile, Laszlo was more interested in crawling out of the room than in shaking rattles. I worried that maybe he had a place on the autism spectrum. I realize now that he probably just didn’t want to hang out in a contrived environment of forced fun. Neither did I.

We have ambitious parent-friends from Ivy League colleges who insisted that you must read to your infant every night, starting in the womb. Otherwise, your kid will never foster a love of learning. I would struggle to get to the end of infant board books with a total of ten words and five pages while Laszlo was chewing on them. Talking to him while I was driving probably did more for his IQ. Holding him in my lap and carrying him everywhere probably made him feel just as loved. Feeling like I had to read to my infant every night when he was more interested in destroying the books only lead me to stress about whether or not he had a learning disability.

When Laszlo was around ten months old, I had the ridiculous idea to try teaching him sign language. But I already knew when Laszlo wanted “more”. (Arms outstretched, whining or crying.) Same with “all done.” (Food being thrown from the high chair.) He didn’t need to know the sign for “cat” or “dog” since we don’t have pets. Reaching for a bottle or my boobs made it clear that he wanted “milk”. He was about to start talking in a few months anyway. There are about three things that a baby needs at that age: food, drink and sleep. I was already pretty clear on when he needed each of those things.

Now that Laszlo is a toddler, I wish I hadn’t bothered with the baby class stuff. I’m still doing kiddie things with him that he doesn’t always enjoy, but at least I’m having fun. We’re not both miserable, like we were in those music classes. I bring him to museums and he seems to tolerate it well enough for a while. There’s often even some kind of exhibit tailored to kids. I also use Laszlo as an excuse to go to the zoo. Pre-baby, Joel would have told me I was crazy for wanting to go to the zoo. But with Laszlo in tow, Joel gets to feel like he’s being a good dad and my weird love for it is validated because now I’m going as a mom. Laszlo is still probably too young for movies, but that didn’t stop my husband and I from taking him to the “The Muppets” movie last weekend. We weren’t the only ones there with toddlers. We all seemed like doting parents, passing on the generational gift of Muppets. But there was an unspoken understanding that we were really there for ourselves.

I should have skipped the baby enrichment classes. I wish more of Laszlo’s baby activities had been something that I enjoyed as well. He was just happy to hang out with me and see stuff. I know how it is when you can’t wait to see your nine month old dance, swim, talk and make friends. But he’ll do these things on his own time. You just have to wait out that boring baby period. I can’t believe there was a time when I would actually wake Laszlo up so we could get to baby music class on time. Unlike those $20/hour music classes, listening to “Free to be You and Me” with your baby doesn’t cost anything. And you can dance like an idiot if you feel like it.

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About Cassandra Barry


Cassandra Barry

Cassandra Barry is sometimes known for playing the role of "my lovely wife" in Joel Stein's columns for Time magazine and other publications. Her son, Laszlo, is in preschool. After several years in New York City, she loves living in Los Angeles, where she works as a textile designer.

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12 thoughts on “Skipping the Baby Enrichment Classes

  1. Hooper says:

    So true!!! Wonderful article.

  2. Laura says:

    Good points. Luckily I don’t live in an area where that kind of thing is standard, but when I hear about how parents make such a big deal about getting their kids to all the music or mommyandme activities, I just think it seems silly. If you do it as a way to meet other parents, then maybe it would be worthwhile, but to think you are doing it for the kids is a little dillusional.

    As for the reading every night, I heard the same thing about how should start from day 1. I call BS on that. We did the regular reading with our oldest (books at night once he was a toddler), but I always felt like a slacker when I heard parents talk about doing it SO early. He is 7 now and is a highly advanced reader. My daughter who just turned 3 now loves to be read to, but couldn’t pay attention to a whole book until she was well into her 2nd year. She also knows colors, numbers, letters…..but not because of flashcards or whatever. She learned it from ‘Word World’ on TV (TV!!!!!).

    I think I started out a bit of a slacker in these areas, but my kids’ development has confirmed my belief that it is all ok.


  3. Alicia says:

    I did the same thing with my son when he was a baby, but after trying the classes one time, I realized I could do that stuff for free at home. I still find myself starting to fall into the trap that I have to sign my son up for everything or else he’ll miss something, but then I talk myself down, take a deep breath, and remember he’ll be fine.

  4. betsybetsy says:

    Nicely put! This makes me feel much better about never taking my babies to any classes ever. We’ve gone two approximately two story times at the library and left overwhelmed after ten minutes each time. I can’t freaking wait to take them to the movies, though.

  5. Allie says:

    I hear what you are saying. I am pregnant with my first, twins, and I just don’t get paying to take my 3 month old to gymbore class. My friend has a two year old and been taking her to the classes since she was an infant. I think it’s more for her than the kid, she claims her daughter likes it. You can dance, sing, and play at home for free. I refuse to fall into the trap.

  6. jo says:

    I found the signing classes after age 1 was a lot more fun for my baby than before that age. Even if you don’t have pets, babies are always interested to share something “cool” they saw at the park like a dog or airplane or ball. Also, babies need more than “food, drink and sleep”. They communicate their need to be use the potty or if they are scared and want to be held and so on. I think the enrichment classes are fun. But I guess if it’s at the expense of a mom’s sanity, then no. It’s best to do what makes you the best mom for your baby.

  7. bee says:

    Baby classes might not be for everyone, but they have worked great for us. I take my daughter to Story Time at multiple libraries (all free!), swimming lessons, music classes, and baby gym classes. The classes have been a lifeline for me, especially as a transplant in a new area. They’ve allowed me to meet other parents of children of similar ages, socialize outside of class, and make friends. My daughter loves the classes and gets fussy if we skip them, since they’ve become part of our routine.

    I have noticed that some of the moms at these classes have a “too cool for school” attitude and participate with minimum effort. They bring down the atmosphere of the class and, thankfully for those of us who actually want to be there, they don’t tend to last long. I make it a point to actually learn the songs and to try to set an example for my daughter of how I would want her to participate. Demonstrating apathy and an attitude of being “above” her classes would not be helpful to her. If you insist on looking like you’ve just smelled a fart throughout the entire class and roll your eyes at the instructor, it’s best to quit, seriously. The other parents there – the ones who want to be there – are seriously annoyed with you. Trust me. But in the future when your kid gets in trouble for having a snotty, crappy attitude at school, you won’t have to wonder who s/he learned it from.

    I’m also not getting the (artificial) division suggested in this article between parents who do the baby enrichment classes vs. parents who take their kids to “real world” activities. Um, hello. It is possible to do both. We go to the zoo, to museums, to art galleries, to horse shows, to the mall, to local festivals, etc. Our lives didn’t stop just because we had a baby. We bring her along with us and her life is richer for it.

    And then there’s this line: “Pre-baby, Joel would have told me I was crazy for wanting to go to the zoo.” Seriously? You guys need to lighten up. Or at least take your noses down a notch. What’s wrong with adults going to the zoo without children? My husband and I went every year during our 20′s just for fun. I guess we’re just “crazy?”

  8. bee says:

    Oh, and then there’s referring to your child as a “useless little lump of flesh.” I’m not even going to touch that one with a ten foot pole, except to say that I feel sorry for him.

  9. Chloe says:

    After reading this I’m glad we held off on classes till our son was past the baby phase. We did library storytime when he was a baby, mainly to get out of the house. At 15-18 months we took a parent & child swim class that helped both of us to be less nervous when taking him to the pool. When he was 2-2.5 we took a few toddler classes at the zoo. He enjoyed seeing the zoo animals but wasn’t very into the rest of it, so I usually ended up doing his craft myself. Kindermusik from age 2.5-3.5 was probably the most beneficial. In addition to music appreciation he learned to cooperate with group dynamics, and to transition from one activity to the next without melting down. They have classes for kids as young as 9 months, but I don’t think my son would have gotten anything out of it before age 2. Bottom line, it’s nice to expose kids to enrichment classes. But they are optional, and if they’re going to bore you and your child that’s not enriching and nothing to feel guilty about. There are other ways to learn and have fun.

  10. bee says:

    I agree with Chloe. I would never want someone to feel guilty for not doing the enrichment classes (especially since many of them are a luxury that not everyone can afford), but at the same time, if you’re going to try it, don’t ruin the experience for everyone else there by coming in with a bad attitude.

  11. Kristin says:

    Thanks for a great article. It makes me feel good about staying at home with my baby, who is now 10 1/2 months old. Lately I’ve been meeting babies who have nannies that take them to a different class every day, including sign language classes. I’ve been feeling like no matter what I gave my baby of time, attention, breastfeeding etc. I could never compete with those money strong families, who stimulate their babies at such a young age. But reading your article made me remember that what matters the most is love, patience and being there. I don’t think feeling weird in those music classes equals bad attitude, I know I did when I tried.

  12. LOL Good to hear! I dont want to wait. I’m not good at it.

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