Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Oh, Are They Doing That Now, Writing and Cutting and Such?

I am not, in the least, the type of person to worry about what my child is doing, developmentally, compared to other children. You'll never see me whipping out alphabet flash cards or encouraging Spanish vocabulary. It's just not in me, and I don't think it has much place in anyone else, either, to tell you the truth. But every now and then I wonder if I'm a little too laid-back about what the girls are learning--or not learning, as the case may be.

I don't mean Genevieve; I could write a whole other post, and I'm sure I will, about how neglected she is, being baby number two and all that. Teach her the ABC song? Read her ten books a day? Quiz her on colors, or body parts, or animal sounds? Uh...maybe after I finish doing all the million things per minute I'm doing around the house and actually go and FIND her, wherever she may be, playing happily, and busily, all by herself for two hours straight.

No, mainly I'm talking here about Julia. This girl is--strictly objectively speaking, here--intellectually precocious. She used three-word sentences at 17 months. She had over 130 words in her vocabulary at 18 months. She knew all her colors, her letters, and many songs and simple books by heart before age two. Because of all that, I totally let her be. It doesn't occur to me to coach any sort of learning; if anything, much of her life I have wished she would slow down a bit, because she is so smart she also becomes easily bored, and because her intelligence drives her to constant conversation and question-asking, and sometimes that's tiring.

But then Christopher came home from Visitor's Day at Julia's nursery school last week to comment that a little classmate of hers was already writing her name. And I recalled Julia's teacher, at fall conferences, mentioning that Julia couldn't yet cut with little-kid scissors. And I realize that we never do those things at home, ever. We have toddler scissors at home; we have paper and pencils, obviously. But we never "work on" writing or cutting. And it seems strange that this child who, to us, is so obviously incredibly bright, might appear perfectly average, or even lagging behind, to her teachers or other outside adults. And it's not that the idea of "average" (or "below" average!) bothers me; it's that I wonder if the reason she can't do these things is that I am being too lazy about teaching her how.

The main reason we don't do these activities is that Julia never wants to, when I suggest them. She has no interest in taking out safety-scissors and construction paper and practicing cutting. Nor even in copying capital J's on paper. And, on my end, I'm all, Meh, okay, forget it. I'm not motivated enough to argue the point. She's hard enough to keep entertained and happy at home; why argue about practicing with scissors and pencils? BOR-ING.

But the other part of it is that Genevieve can't do these things. And it's really hard--tantrum-inviting, even--to set Julia up with an activity that Genevieve is too little to do too. Sure, I can give Genevieve crayons and paper, while Julia writes. But Genevieve's not that great, even, with crayons---she tends to eat them, throw them, and become inexplicably enraged that they aren't, say, big-girl pencils. Which is just not a whole lot of fun for anyone.

Now that Genevieve's morning nap is gone--the time when Julia and I used to haul out all sorts of things inappropriate for baby sisters: board games with small pieces, messy crafts, and the like--we tend to avoid activities that aren't suitable for one-year-olds. Inevitably, that means Julia gets short-changed out of a lot of fun--and no doubt enriching--endeavors. But I don't have the energy to fight with Genevieve over all that stuff, and she's not docile enough to settle for an alternate project.

I'm not worried that Julia won't one day learn to write her name. I'm worried that I'm supposed to be teaching her--just like I'm supposed to be interacting one-on-one with Genevieve rather than letting her play by herself in the other room while I do laundry and sweep floors--and I'm not.

Is it laid-back, or is it lazy?


Mom/Nonna said...

It certainly is NOT lazy: it is two totally different but very normal little people, each doing her own thing and developing in her own unique time. Julia will write her name when she is ready. And as with her using the potty, one day she will just pick up a pencil and scrawl our J-U-L-I-A. She *knows* all the letters and what they look like and can spell her name with the magnetic alphabet. She just sees no reason to write it herself yet! And Genevieve is so busy that you will be glad she has a *short* nickname someday! Go, Genna!

Shan said...

Note: the question ("laid-back, or lazy?") was referring to ME, not my children. Just to be clear.

Anonymous said...

You are not lazy, woman! Just because your kid is not cutting yet or spelling her name does not mean you should teach her. I'm sure if you wrote out a list of things Julia does--especially critical thinking skills, the questions she ponders at her age, most parents would tell you their kids are not expressive in this manner. You are teaching your child to think and learn, and that's pretty admirable. She'll learn to cut paper and color inside the lines soon enough. How old is she again? Right. She's got some time yet. Breathe. Relax. Your girls are more than okay, and trust me, there ain't nothin' average about them there babies! :)