Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Heigh ho Sister

I read an article in the NYT yesterday about kids and technology. Over-zealous parents are hooking their 8-month-old children up to computers in hopes of cultivating their technological skills early and increasing their intelligence. This is alarming. What got me the most was the line about how the marketing of these educational products for kids feeds off parents assumption that their children are more intelligent than the average child simply because they can point and click or recite the alphabet when they are only one. I saw myself in that description and cringed at the thought that I was no better than the masses, so tempted to consider my offspring advanced, gifted, above average.

It is hard not to do this, I suppose, when their little minds are so incredibly retentive and our minds are so spent. I mean, on most days, Esther is Einstein compared to me. Especially right after a nap where it seems as if she went to Harvard while she was sleeping. She wakes up filled with stories and memories of things that happened months and months ago in great detail. "Remember in Maine when we got to the beach just in time because we are so clever and all my cousins were on the steps waiting for me and said, 'Esther's here, Esther's here' and just as we got out of the car the ice cream man came and I got that disgusting bubble gum flavored ice cream that stuck to my teeth and for the rest of the time you ordered me that brown ice cream on a wooden stick instead?" Woah.

It's hard not to hear this stuff and think, "oh my, the mind on this kid." It's so hard not to see them learning and growing and drawing and thinking in that fresh and new way they have and not believe that they know something we don’t. That they are capable of things we were never capable of. If only we just nudge them, nudge nudge, along lest they lose focus.

Ian and Isla are upstairs in our bed. She is asleep on his chest, snorting away through her congested little nose. His large hand looks so lovely resting gently on her back. His hands look especially strong and comforting when they are anywhere near his children. He often holds Isla’s hand when I nurse her in bed and the contrast between tiny and vulnerable and big and safe is so stark. It reminds me of when Esther was obsessed with the difference between men and women and kept saying, "Daddy's a man." "How do you know he's a man?" I would ask. "Because he has big hands and a scratchy face."

Watching Ian together with his daughters, I have to wonder if he finds the experience of being father to two girls as moving as I find the sight of it. He doesn’t communicate his feelings much, okay not at all, so I am left to guess.

We have colds. Esther was barking last week and spewing yellow snot from her nose. Isla has no chance of escaping the germs. I keep catching Esther with her nose and lips in Isla’s mouth. She says she likes the way it feels when Isla sucks her lips.

I must be the most permissive parent in the world. If anyone could witness Esther manhandling her baby sister on the couch, pulling her out of her basket and into her lap for some serious loving, they might accuse me of being neglectful. I don’t have the heart to stop her. She loves her little sister and her little sister loves her. She just doesn’t know it yet. I have also found that the more I resist and squelch and scold, the more she desires to do what I have forbidden her to do. If I just show her I trust her, within reason, she comes away more confident and less likely to seek attention by abusing the baby. Yesterday Essie had Isla on her knee (on the floor of course) and was playing, “This is the way the ladies ride, this is the way the gentleman ride.” Isla was contentedly bouncing up and down, mouth open wide, on big sister’s knee and Esther was laughing ecstatically. She is overjoyed with her new plaything.

It takes the stress off me as well, having someone else to play with Isla when she cries. Esther always gets there first. She is the better mommy here. Much more attentive, less distracted. I love seeing them together. Esther lay down next to Isla on the floor and told her that she loved her. There is no quantifying that moment. It will stay with me until the next time Esther makes Isla cry. That should be any minute now.

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