Bragging Parents

Have I ever mentioned that both of my children are performing FAR above grade level?  Of course, it’s tough to pin down exactly how advanced they are because Emma is only one and Jacob is only four.  Which means they are not actually in grade school.  Or old enough for standardized testing.  (Or, as far as Emma goes, talking.)  But they are ADVANCED.  I can tell.  Jacob is a poet.  If he’s not reciting verse from some cultural touchstone (read: the “Wonder Pets”), he’s running around the playground making up his own rhymes. (MOVE OVER, KEATS.) Sure, he’s usually running around with his shoes on the wrong feet.  And running right by the friend he’s madly searching for. DETAILS.  He is an artiste.  And Emma?  Where do I start?  She is clearly a scientist in the making. Sometimes when I hand her a bottle of milk, she studies it for a moment.  Then shakes it gently up and down.  And watches the milk slosh around.  I’m almost positive she’s trying to determine its molecular structure. Or measuring the volume by sight.  (“Six ounces, Mommy?  SUH-WEEET!”)  Of course, the sloshing is usually a prelude to upending the bottle and watching the milk drain onto the floor.  SOMEONE GIVE THIS GIRL A PIPETTE. Can a Nobel Prize be far off?

Okay, maybe not.

Look, we’ve all earned the right to brag about our children from time to time.  But here’s my pet peeve: parents who make a hobby of it.  Your child was walking at 9 months?  Awesome.  I think you may have the next secretary of state there.  And your little sweetie was potty trained at 18 months?   Fascinating.  I’m sure that getting a jump start on anal retentiveness will give her an edge when she trains to be an air traffic controller.  (Gastroenterologist?)  Your other child said his first word at 6 months?  Wow.  No doubt that will translate into higher SAT scores. IN ANOTHER SEVENTEEN YEARS.  Was his first word something like “replete” or “labyrinthine”?  No? Then, actually, I’m not impressed.  My one-year-old isn’t that verbal yet, but that’s because she’s holding off until she can say something really good.  Like “Interpolate”. “Gratuitous”.  Or “Circumnavigate”. 

In my experience though, the worst is when parents brag about sleep.  Jacob, my four-year-old, was a horrible sleeper his first year.  HORRIBLE.  So, believe me I just loved hearing other (well rested) parents talk about their little Rip Van Winkles.  One guy at work told me that his baby slept a solid ten hours each night virtually since birth.  Then he said, “I think it’s because we speak to him so much during the day.  It tires him out and then he sleeps great.”  Oooooohhh.  So, that’s it.  We’re supposed to talk to our baby.  Why didn’t anyone mention this before?  And here we were just staring blankly at him. For months.  I just smiled and nodded at my coworker.  (Full disclosure: in between sentences, I was dropping into REM sleep from exhaustion.)  But here’s what I should have said: “Look, pal, I can guarantee you that we talk to our baby twice as much as you talk to yours. How do I know?  BECAUSE HE IS AWAKE FOR THE WHOLE DAMN DAY. And we spend most of that time pleading with him to go to sleep.”

Other than being slow to sleep through the night, though, Jacob has hit most developmental milestones right in the middle of the pack.  Not too early, not too late. He crawled at ten months, walked shortly after turning one and potty trained (with much “encouragement” from his very pregnant mother) just before turning three.  Jacob’s first words were pretty typical too- “Mama” and “Dada”, not “juxtaposition” or anything in Japanese (despite my husband, Dan’s best efforts). The only thing Jacob did remarkably early was develop the pincer grasp- the ability to pick up tiny objects between his thumb and forefinger.  Or, more precisely, the ability to pick up EVERY SINGLE CRUMB OF FOOD between his thumb and forefinger.  Yeah.  We found Jacob’s ability to retrieve every last particle of food mind boggling.  And a bit frightening.  (Stay tuned for future post on this.) We did not brag.

Now that Jacob and his peers are four, the big question is when they will start to read and write.  Already I hear parents dropping comments.  “After Timmy finished the business section of the Times, we went out and put some training wheels on his bicycle”. Okay, a teensy exaggeration.  But, you get my point.  Every now and then I hear Jacob spell a word: “O-U-T spells out!”.  And I get excited.  But then, a few hours later, I’ll be washing dishes while Jacob watches a video and I’ll hear a cartoon tiger or purple dinosaur spell the same damn word.  Crap.  (Then I have to retract Jacob’s early action application to Harvard.)  Whatever.  He’s a typical kid.  Does he have to be ahead of everyone else in something?

And what about my one-year-old, Emma?  Once she was in spitting distance of her first birthday, everyone started asking if she was walking.  NO.  No, she was not.  I wanted to add: MAYBE SHE IS HAPPY RIGHT WHERE SHE IS.  What’s that? Your 10 month old is already a track star?  WHAT’S HE RUNNING FROM?  Mm hmm. (Sounds like a shady character to me.)  Anyway, I think Emma just had no interest in walking.  Until a few days ago.  When she suddenly realized that walking is the best way to move around while holding something.  By “something” I mean her bottle of milk.  Hey, you try parsing the molecular structure of milk while crawling around on all fours and clutching a bottle between your teeth.  (Madame Curie never had to work under these conditions.)  Suddenly, the girl is on her feet.

All right, I’ll get off my soapbox.  I’d better wrap this up.  Before I get to bed I need to finish up Emma’s application for that gifted and talented toddler program.  And restring Jacob’s ukelele so that it’s ready for his lesson tomorrow morning.  No worries though.  I’m sure that even if I’m up a bit late the kids will let me have a good solid night’s sleep.  Yeah. Right.

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