Continuing the Rat Race

They’re only 16 months old and the twins are already part of the sordid rat race.I’ve already discovered how the rat races to walk first, talk first, get weaned from breast and/or bottle first (to name but a few) start almost before the baby can sit up and say “goo”.

It required some determination, but I managed to ignore all the well-intentioned but alarmist advice for getting the twins ahead in the walking rat race; and now that they’re walking, almost jumping, and almost talking, I thought I could forget about rat races until they start school.

How absolutely naive.

Why, by the time they even start school, they should already know their numbers, the alphabet (backwards), how to spell their name, how many legs a centipede has and of what colour and sundry other important stuff like that; if not, not only will they be denied admission into every school worth the name, but also they and their parents will be relegated to the lowest strata of society, several levels lower than politicians.

It’s getting so bad that I’m beginning to get the feeling that I’ve already irreparably damaged their future careers. The other day, we met a kid who was looking at a picture book. When his mother said “fan” he obediently searched through the whole book to find a fan. When she said “king” he found a king; fish, and he found fish… and so on. The thing is, mother and child were looking at this particular book for the very first time – so the kid was not identifying pictures by rote. He actually knew what type of object he was looking for, and selected those that resembled what he knew of kings, fans, and fishes. This kid was only a month or so older than the twins – and he already knew so much! I felt completely apologetic for my kids, who, when told “head” happily clap both hands on their heads and continue doing so even when subsequently told “feet” “nose” “tummy” and “mama”.

I guess if you coach a child carefully enough, you can expect him/her to respond appropriately to pictures in a book. Trouble is, I hardly coach the twins at all, apart from telling them not to put their fingers in electric sockets (or in their diapers).

My idea of keeping my kids busy all day is to let them run about the house and play as much as they can. They do have picture books – which they love – but they also have balls, building blocks, crayons, teddy bears and other stuffed stuff, and of course the furniture to keep them busy. They spend most of their day pulling, pushing, running, climbing, falling, howling, laughing, talking (gibberish)… doing what kids their age, surely, should be doing.

The other kid, who was so good at identifying pictures in a book, could also – by all accounts – comfortably operate the sophisticated home theater system, complete with remote control et al. He seemed very quiet in contrast to the twins, but perhaps that was because he was mentally figuring out some complex mathematical theorems or inventing some fantastic new method for communicating with intelligent life forms on other planets. Whatever…

The books on parenting talk about “stimulating” kids’ interests in their environment – not necessarily teaching them letters, numbers, nursery rhymes and the like, but telling them about objects, sounds, sights, even smells. I find that the twins don’t seem to need much stimulation – they have a healthy interest in their environment already and going by the speed at which they set about exploring (read wrecking) it, I’m not sure that any additional stimulation would be good for them – or me.

So, I just let them be. I figure, I can pump them full of this information now – colours and numbers, nouns and verbs; or I can just let them be and they’ll pick it up as they go along. I tend to believe that, if left to themselves, kids will learn these things on their own; not numbers and the alphabet, I agree, those will need to be taught, but the other stuff, the normal parts of an average vocabulary they will surely pick up. Thanks to their indefatigable curiousity and their intrinisc desire to learn, I guess they will learn most useful stuff just as inevitably as they learn, without any guidance, to walk (and run, and jump), to talk, and to lock mama up in the bathroom at the first possible opportunity.

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