Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jumping Off Bridges

Remember when your parents told you not to do something just because someone else was doing it? In other words, use your critical-thinking skills to make educated decisions and not just follow someone off a bridge just because the other person decided it was a good idea to jump. Why do people keep jumping anyway?

The sheep mentality. I sooooo dislike it. People who act like sheep (sheeple?) and simply follow the crowd and do whatever the crowd is doing might as well follow them right off the bridge. Instead of looking into other options most people will simply do what the "majority" is doing. It's human nature.  And, it's easier.  If the majority thinks that it's a good idea for 5-year-olds to spend the equivalent of an adult work week in the classroom then, by all means, we should send our kids to all-day Kindergarten.  If the majority thinks it's okay to let your kids play video games for hours on end, then it must be a good idea.  After all, these kids are developing visual acuity and spacial perception as well as other cognitive skills (that's the spin anyway).  Most people will tell you that "studies indicate..." that this increase in academics or hand-eye coordination is good for the kids, but these people have never bothered to actually read the studies they are quoting. All they know is what their neighbor told them that they heard from another friend who misquoted a person they overheard talking about it at the PTA meeting.

When I was a new mom I was overwhelmed with all of the gadgets and toys available for babies and toddlers. All the sheeple I talked to had a Baby Einsten DVD or CD or some brain-based toy that was supposed to "encourage discovery" as if a DVD could do what a simple set of blocks couldn't. I remember knowing that I didn't want to put my baby in front of a TV but feeling a bit out of sorts because everyone else was doing the "Baby Einstein" thing. This was my first foray into the parenting-sheep mentality and I didn't like the feeling one bit. What was a new mom to do?

When I found Kathy Hirsch-Pasek's book, Einstein Never Used Flashcards, I was so happy to read that it was OK for my children to just play. She gave me permission to give my children simple blocks, kitchen utensils and other uncomplicated toys. Christopher's favorite thing to do when he was 2-years old was to play with pencils (unsharpened of course). He would take several pencils , sit on the floor and make shapes like houses or triangles or even, according to him, birds. He would be completely absorbed for hours. Nicholas had more fun with plastic cups in the bathtub than any other colorful bathtub paint or musical "must-have" toy.

Instead of watching classical music DVDs, my boys and I would turn on our stereo and dance around our living room. Our favorite songs when they were little were Shout by the Isley Brothers and The Hokey Pokey. Now, we have the Glee soundtracks that keep us all equally absorbed.  I use music to lessen the excruciating pain of Christopher's 5,000 questions asked during a routine drive to the grocery store.  "Hey buddy, do you want to hear the Glee version of  Don't Stand So Close To Me one more time?  Please?"

Don't get me wrong. We have (had) the newest and best toys. After all, the grandparents wanted to make sure our kids had the latest and greatest gadgets. But even though we had those toys they were not necessarily the boys' favorites. The most memorable times we have had include going out and exploring our neighborhoods, visiting museums, walking around the zoo, reading books or just hanging out and singing silly songs. The best playlists on my iPod include songs the kids and I can sing together.

A very hard lesson to learn at any age is that it's OK to disagree. It's not OK to be mean about it or disruptive or cruel. But it's OK to accept that you have a different viewpoint; not always better or more correct...just different. I gave up a long time ago trying to be "right" in the eyes of my peers.  I do some things differently, that's all.  No need to justify my decisions.

I see new moms struggling with the same things I struggled with in the past.  Am I doing this right?  Am I making the right decisions? Am I emotionally scarring my kids?  All I can say is do what's best for your family and shut out the noise from everyone else.  That noise you hear is just bleating from the sheeple who are teetering on the edge of the bridge.

I don't worry as much as I used to about doing things "right."  If it makes sense in my world, that's all that matters to me.


Mommy on the Spot said...

I cannot tell you how deeply this resonates with me on so many levels. I love this post!! Thank you.

Now let's figure out when to meet up! Email me what dates work for you after this week.


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