But then I got American internet. And I got caught up on Top Model and also Project Runway– both of which are shows that I wouldn’t admit to liking in a room full of people, but I really do.
So tonight as I watched last week’s episode of Top Model, I noticed an advertisement for a product for little kids (maybe 3-4 years old?) to learn their letters, numbers, counting, etc. And the tag line was something like, “how do children learn? with____.” And this part of my brain did a spin. Uh, no. They don’t really learn from gizmos talking to them. They learn from– get this– real live people- talking to them, with them.
But that takes time. And energy. And devoting all of your attention, even if for 20 minutes, to this little person who you share your life with. Also… it’s difficult to give and give like that. How much nicer to have a little new, lighty-blinky ipad-like toy to give to your child. You get to see their face light up with excitement.
Of course, no one is going to make a commercial showing just how neat it is to see your kids face light up when you sit to read a book over and over and over again, with enthusiasm even though in a corner of your brain you’re thinking about a report you need to write, or some dishes that need attention, or a dress you want to sew, or whatever.
And then I realized that most of the best things about parenting don’t require any special gizmos or equipment. Here’s a preliminary list:
Sleeping with your baby
Taking walks together
Sitting on the floor counting toes
Discussing a novel
Telling stories together
Swinging on a swing
But American parents are bombarded with the idea that if we buy this crib, this fancy stroller, that computer-like game, or this big play structure then we will be loved by our kids.
Here’s the truth: they already love us. Even if we mess up. Even if we don’t give them enough time or attention. Even if we work outside the home and they get precious few hours with us in a week.
The voice they want to hear saying, “A says a” or singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or reading a story is that of mom and dad. And when they ask to play wii, what they really want is for us to play wii with them. Or chess. Or football.
As I’m in the midst of getting rid of lots of stuff, I realize how little of what we have brings pleasure to daily life. We’ve been living without most of our belongings for about 8 months. So when I see it now, it is with fresh eyes and I realize that most of it is a distraction. And some of it really does improve life. (like the cuisinart! And good knives!)
What’s distracting you from what matters?