Note To Chattering Parents: Put a Sock In It


exasperated-kidWe’ve all read the advice to constantly stimulate your baby with talk — keeping up a ceaseless stream of updates and information, packing in every possible teachable moment. And quite frankly, sometimes I’ve even annoyed myself with the constant chatter: “Yes! Now we’re going to go get milk! Yes! The milk jug has BLUE on it! Milk comes from COWS!”

Apparently, I’m not the only one rolling my eyes and thinking “will you LISTEN to yourself, woman?” (Much as, I should note, I do love talking to them and think it’s helped them both develop good verbal skills). Susan Goldberg, writing for the New York Times “Complaint Box” blog, describes this phenomenon thusly: “Vibrating with earnestness and a gravitas that can seem eerily out of proportion to the setting, they pollute the public airspace as they loudly instruct their artisanal children on topics like sharing, Unicef or the water table — all the while glancing about furtively to make sure that people have noticed how very patient and loving and role model-y they are.”

Funny, but ooofff. I vibrate with earnestness pretty much never, no one who knows me would use the word gravitas as a descriptor, and I would rather people NOT pay attention to my parenting skills because THERE’S a double-edged sword for you. But haven’t we all run across those parents who need to take things down, like, 19 notches? No grocery shopping trip, park outing or preschool class is safe from their pushy, overbearing ways. My favorite was a mom in a music class I took with my daughter when she was a toddler who took it upon herself to start bossing the teacher so the children could have “an organic musical experience.”

Goldberg’s main complaint, it must be said, is the rather LOUD tone these parents utilize in their endless educational prattle. She herself, she swears, used positively dulcet tones during her own days of “maternal showboating.” I’m not taking any bets on that, personally. But it does remind me that if I’m concerned with exposing my children to a language-rich environment, I should probably keep it down. After all, I’d rather my fellow adults don’t share their own fully-developed language skills — complete with “grownup words that aren’t a good thing to say” with me.