Should I Have Taught my Baby That?
My husband Scott and I were extremely shortsighted when we taught our twin toddlers, Abbey and Jonah, “uh-oh.” Every time something accidentally fell down, we’d say, “Uh-oh” and pick it up. (In hindsight, a very bad move.) When Abbey finally used it on her own, we swooned with delight. I grabbed the phone and tried to coax her into repeating it for Grandma, which, of course, she wouldn’t.
Little did we realize we’d created a soft-voiced little monster.
By the time we got to “Uh-oh: Day Four,” I was ready to run shrieking from the house. Abbey had begun using “uh-oh” incessantly. It was no longer a quip made when something innocently fell or was inadvertently knocked over. It had undergone a sinister metamorphosis into a shrill warning signal that Abbey was about to intentionally throw or destroy something. The meaning had changed from, “Whoops, sorry I spilled ketchup in your purse Mama,” to, “Heads up!” just before the ketchup lands squarely on my chin.
“Uh-oh” has become the bane of my existence (and also a warning that I should duck, quickly).
The same goes for zippers. Abbey learned how to use zippers by playing with one of those cloth activity books, the type with buckles, Velcro, shoelaces and other hands-on items. After Abbey learned how to work the zipper in the book, it didn’t take her long to apply that skill to other things, like unzipping her pajamas so she could strip in her crib every morning. I was so pleased we’d taught her how to use zippers when I found her one morning grinning proudly, sitting stark naked atop wet sheets. That same activity book also taught Jonah about shoelaces. He learned how to not only unlace his own shoes, but how to remove the laces from his shoes and subsequently wrap them around unsuspecting dolls’ necks.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that we teach our kids all sorts of things that, if we gave it a little more thought, we really wish we hadn’t because the misapplication of all these skills winds up tormenting us.
Even in the early months, Scott and I encouraged our kids to reach developmental milestones and then rued the fact that they’d not only reached them, but used them in ways we never envisioned. I never really understood why my friend Kerry – who has a daughter several months older than my kids – warned me not to aggressively root for Abbey and Jonah to start crawling. I thought she was nuts. Until now. At first, Scott and I were proud when they became expert crawlers. But a few days after they learned how to crawl very quietly and swiftly, we realized that all bets were off and that nothing would be safe in the house until they move into their own apartments.
The same goes for teaching them to talk. For months, I worried that neither Abbey nor Jonah was talking enough. I tried to get them to say anything, even the dreaded, “No.” Now I get “no” in spades. It’s Jonah’s favorite word. Everything – positive or negative – is greeted with a big, fat “no.” “Jonah, would you like more banana?” “No!” he says tersely before he reconsiders and then vigorously nods his head yes. (At least they haven’t learned to say, “why,” or “mine.” Yet.)
Scott and I also made a terrible mistake several months ago when we ushered in the nightly “naked piggies” ritual. In a vain attempt to get the kiddos to stop struggling when we undressed them at night, we began making a game out of taking their shoes and socks off. “Who wants naked piggies?” we’d ask. They’d smile and scamper over, eager to be the first one to wiggle his or her bare toes in the air as we pulled their socks off with great fanfare. The piggy unveiling was followed by a recitation of “This Little Piggy” for each foot.
This inspired an overwhelming urge to have naked piggies 24/7. Abbey began pulling off her shoes and socks several times a day, coming over to me and sticking her feet in my face waiting for me to commence with the nursery rhyme. Then she’d wrench Jonah’s shoes and socks off his feet, put his shoes on and start the process all over again. (It’s easier to get his shoes off now that he’s started removing the shoelaces.)
We still think it’s cute to watch them giddily jump in the crib together, followed by acrobatic free falling onto the mattress face first. But we know that the cuteness will be short-lived. “What happens when we move them to toddler beds and they’re not allowed to jump in bed anymore?” my husband asked me recently as we watched them bounce like those rubber Superballs in Jonah’s crib.
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