Tricks aren’t for kids

There’s something so horribly desperate about first-time parents, especially with a baby who hasn’t started walking yet: “See the blue triangle! Look! Look! A green square! Where’s the letter T? Where’s the T? See the T? Letter T?”

People! Take it easy! In two months, the kid will be flinging food in your face and slamming himself onto the floor wailing. Have some fun while you can.

What do new parents really want out of this hyper-aspirational achievement, anyway? Do we want the babies to head off to college at 6? Did you ever meet, I don’t know, pretty much anyone over the age of 10 who couldn’t ID colors and shapes? Don’t bore the snot out of your kids. Just leak them the info in passing. They’ll get it, I swear.

Think about it: Engaging a child in his or her environment maximizes intelligence. How did Victorian child laborers get by? Sweeping chimneys, keeping away from the rats, grabbing dinner from the trash, dodging bedbugs. I bet there were very few slackers surviving in that crowd. Show me the smart spawn of yuppies, and I’ll counter with a homeless kid in Calcutta. Now that’s using your wits, since you actually need to — and not just as an activity that’s a better alternative than watching “Super Why!” again.

So, I’ve wondered: Is this the answer for reaching one’s maximum potential? Bypass all the play-with-dirt-and-declare-yourself-a-scientist courses and Spanish-immersion classes, and put the kid out on the streets? Hey, you do want the intellect to flourish, don’t you? Don’t you?

Eh.

Maybe we could just bring them out, let them play and talk to them like they’re people, not trained monkeys. It’s a start. And the authorities would be much happier, too.

–Jillian O’Connor

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