Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hail To The Clown

Sitting in a circle singing an annoyingly perky song to a toy clown is not how I used to spend Wednesdays. But I have to admit that by the time they blew the bubbles, I was into it. Daniel was not. They scared him and made him cry. But he perked up again when the hand puppets and the parachute came out. And so it is that for one hour each week of what I still consider My New Life, my infant son and I are bonded by song and silliness.

I’m not knocking it. I’m a big fan. These classes assuage the guilt I feel for not knowing the developmentally correct way to interact with my baby to ensure maximum growth. As the horrible book I bought that promised I’d have the smartest baby ever if I just followed their simple guidelines put it – “The first year is The Most Important Time for your baby to learn. Your baby takes in more this year then ever, ever again his entire life. Cumulatively. Got it? SO DON’T SCREW UP!” I’m not quoting verbatim, but you get the point.

The book suggests approximately 10,000 one-minute games with specific toys for each activity (their brand) that you must play with your baby every day. There are lists with games specific to each month of life. But, and this they stress as being of the utmost importance, you must also watch out for signs of exhaustion, stress, over repetitiveness from said games, which include yawning, eye contact avoidance, sticking ones tongue out (theirs not yours), wiggling legs. Not to be confused with the wiggling legs of delight, which mean you’re doing it just right. Do these “very simple and easy and fun” things and you will increase your child’s IQ ten points.

It’s insanity, I tell you. And though I know my baby is taking everything in without the games and that he’s learning in spite of my fumbling attempts, and given that I couldn’t possibly kiss him and hold him and sing to him more, it just never seems enough. That old friend guilt sits on the sidelines, waiting, until I put Daniel in his bouncy seat for ten minutes so that I can eat lunch or finish writing an article. And then it pounces – “Aha, you selfish, awful mother. How dare you take time to eat? I’ll bet so-and-so down the block doesn’t ever eat. You. Are. A. Horrible. Mother.”

So, at $14 a pop, these weekly Wednesday classes seem well worth it. Daniel laughs and giggles and he seems to like the unfortunately catchy songs. And the squeaky, perky team leader who uses her rah-rah voice not just for the kids but for the moms too – “Does Daniel’s mommy like the clown? Good mommy!” – is a small price to pay. And as my brain slowly dissolves into a big puddle of mush and I say things like “Who’s a good hand puppet? Who’s a good hand puppet?” only to be gently reminded that I’m supposed to let my son play with it as well, Daniel giggles and I realize this is the most important thing I could be doing. Hail to the clown. Hail to the parachute. Hail to the overcaffeinated team leaders who make me feel like a better mother!

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