Skipping the Baby Enrichment ClassesCassandra Barry
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.