We spent the day at the Museum of Natural History, looking at dinosaur bones and oogling mammals. Our favorite part of the museum, however, is the Discovery Room, with dozens upon dozens of boxes full of nifty things to discover: skeletons of sparrows and bats, mink pelts, musical instruments made of natural materials, costumes from all over the world, microscopes and so much fun. The little guy invariably makes a beeline for the costume rack, puts on the lab coat, grabs a pair of binoculars and a ‘field guide’ and then runs around telling all the other little kids how the place works.
I get to sit down.
He was announcing with such seriousness, “I’m a scientist.” And indeed, when we looked at the box with the skeletons, he correctly deduced that one was a bird, one was a frog, one was a … bat! It’s at times like this when I worry a little: how can the adults in his life help channel his natural curiosity, his native intelligence, and his budding confidence? I get e-mails from self-declared ‘genius experts’ who have a $22, guaranteed formula for turning your little bundle of love into a PhD brainiac. Baby Einstein, baby language tapes, in vitro Shakespeare, piano lessons for the two and under set. I don’t usually worry about this stuff; I’m not down with the hype. But sometimes the marketing messages manage to prod that raw Mommy Guilt I try so hard to stuff back into the box. Have I ruined my child’s chances of getting into Harvard because I didn’t get him a LeapPad for Christmas?
The best thing you can do for your child is be there. Listen. Engage. Teach by example. Allow your children to make their own mistakes, even if it involves a little blood or a big, fat F on their report cards. The moment when they belonged to you passed shortly after … when? When the doc cut the cord, when you weaned, when they took their first steps or when they ran around the corner and didn’t freak out because they couldn’t see you anymore? Or perhaps, it was the first time that little chubby faced kid looked you in the eye and said, “No, mama. I DO.”
Love is the world’s longest, strongest rubber band. Let them run and stretch as far and wide as they want, and they will always come snapping back to you for a hug, a kiss, a short recharge of their mama battery. Encourage your child to chase a dream, and your kid will be plenty smart enough.