As parents, we can look forward to the arrival of child number 2, because we see it as an opportunity to fix the mistakes made with child number 1. Problems with sleep patterns? Fix them this time around. Want to try different foods? Here you go, have another chance.
For me, I thought I was being so smart with #1. I skipped the baby talk altogether and just spoke normally to my child. I would spend hours with her, carrying her around the house with me, telling her what I was doing. I knew I was in trouble when her 5th or 6th word was "email." I thought it was fun to lay on the couch when she was an infant, with her curled up on my chest and read to her. No "See Spot Run" for this kid. Nope, I read her Harry Potter books and W.E.B. Griffin books and legal thrillers. (If you're not familiar with WEB Griffin, he writes military novels - she got to hear all about OSS operators (precurser to the CIA) during World War II in Argentina and about present day Secret Service agents.) I thought I was doing a good thing, helping her develop her vocabulary, exposing her to words. As she got the hang of talking, she would repeat words to us, trying the word in different places in the sentence until we told her that she was using it correctly. Who knew that a 2 year old could figure out where a noun went in a sentence. At the time, we thought it was cute.
When B was a baby, I took her to sign language classes. Conventional wisdom is that if you teach a baby to sign a few simple words ("milk," "hungry," thank you," etc.) they are less tense and don't throw tantrums as much, because they feel that they can communicate without being able to talk. Studies show that babies who learn sign language are also quicker to talk and have a more extended vocabulary. I should have known. I thought I was so smart, getting her going early, teaching her to communicate. You'd never know how much you miss the silence of sign language once the voice box kicks into high gear.
I also kept the television off. She never cared much for the Baby Einstein dvds and would much rather chew on a board book, so I left the "squawk box" off. It wasn't until she was 1 and a half or 2 that we started watching Dora the Explorer and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and even then she didn't seem interested for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a stretch. Apparently that was enough for her to memorize the music and start singing the songs all over the house. And then there's Sesame Street. Such fun memories for some people, of watching it as kids. Now I wonder if I will ever get "C is for cookie" out of my head.
These days, my first attempts at parenting have been coming back around to bite me in the ass. My 4 year old has a vocabulary like you would not believe. I'm not talking about curse words or profanity (although she did give "shit" a pretty good run for its money one day about a year ago.) I'm talking about 3 and 4 syllable words that some seniors in high school couldn't use properly. At a wedding on Saturday, she remarked that the reception was "magnificent." But trust me, it's not all sunshine and roses with this one. She knows how to manipulate the system and boy does she ever. Yesterday I told her that we had to stop at the grocery store and Rite Aid on the way home. She started throwing a mini tantrum, complaining that she just wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home as well, but "these are the things we have to do." Her response was "what things do we have to do, mommy?" I said "I already told you." Her response: "No, you said 'these are the things we have to do' and I asked you 'what' and you didn't answer." This is a 4 year old, people! For lack of anything else to say, I told her to stop being a Smart Ass! (I'm sure that phrase will wind it's way into her usage and come back to haunt me soon.)
In my ever present frustration, and with #2 on the way, I am now faced in an opportunity to test the theory. Do I use this opportunity to dumb things down? Do I refrain from talking to this little baby as I would any other person, opting instead to coo and make funny faces and noises? Or do I let the first one explain how things go? I'm quite sure Brooklyn would rise to the occasion. She's already reading some of her bedtime stories to us, maybe she'll chip in and read them to the baby. Of course, then she'll be telling the baby that things are "magnificent."
What is a parent to do? Is this one of those "mistakes" that we learn from, or is this just a speed bump on the road to greatness? Do we weather this vocabulary storm in the hopes that she will one day win the Jeopardy Teen Tournament and be able to pay for her own college education? Perhaps, instead, we take on the role of mimes. Instead of talking to the baby, we will act out everything. Better yet, I'll take the baby to sign language class and speak only in sign. The baby might get to age 3 or 4 thinking that "quiet" is the way to go. Then again, with Brooklyn running around (who I swear does not have an "inside" voice) this child might have to scream at the top of his or her lungs to get a word in edgewise.
I'm sure there will be other hurdles as we go, things that we remember doing with Brooklyn that we will wonder about with #2. I'm certainly going to think twice before I plop down on the couch to read a book out loud to the baby. Maybe the Archie comics will be more the right speed, rather than the globe trotting spy novels that I gravitate to. Then again, maybe not.