Wonder Mother

In Non-Fiction by Meg Sternbee0 Comments

Super Mom. When you see these words what do they conjure up? A waist like an hourglass hugged by a white t-shirt with a crust of smeared banana across her chest, a baby wedged under the right arm while a hand holds a toilet bowl brush, the other gripping the handle of a vacuum? A beautiful face, smooth around the eyes, the forehead shiny, imperceptible worry lines? Manicured nails? Clean hair? Gluten free crackers in a back pocket of her skinny jeans, a stack of Dr. Suess balanced on her head? Yes. This is what I think Super Mom would look like. But more importantly, her mind would hold serenity; the next adorable craft activity for the emerging toddler mind and her heart would grasp the openness she received from a recent yoga session. She would also be thinking about how to make her relationship more sensual, she would remind herself to schedule that wax, and the minute the kid is put down for his nap she would resume Operation Reorganize. Her winter garden would be planted with garlic and kale her freezer packed with frozen tomatoes, asparagus and blueberries in color-coordinated stacks. Her voice would never rise beyond a soft octave blowing from her mouth like a cool summer breeze, lips painted bamboo pink.


Maybe each of us can master one or two or even three Super Mom expressions, but despite the buried longing for perfection we cannot use this paragon (or your own personal one) as a compass. If we did we would feel like failures everyday and we don’t need ourselves to feel less than superb. The world we are up against has plenty of self-depleting options for our psyches. The trend of mother lit seems to be moving towards forgiveness and camaraderie, however there are still subliminal messages in most major media and science can often be perplexingly penalizing. January’s National Geographic article by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee about brain development in young children addresses just how mothers might bungle parenting.

Titled “The First Year,” Bhattacharjee’s article focuses on the importance of developing language in babies through interaction and reading beyond the first twelve months. We have until a child is four before their brain is sealed from us. At which point, the extreme absorption and development, the fizzing and fusing of brain matter will be locked until adolescence when again a child is susceptible to life long impressions.

But the essential purpose of the article, what left the deepest impression, was the study involving infants who were able to recognize and respond to tonal changes in not only their native tongue but Mandarin as well. Until they were about six months these babies were able to “discriminate between sounds in any language, native or foreign.”  The kicker is the importance of face-to-face and body to body. When the babies turned nine months half had a Chinese tutor for their Mandarine lessons while the other half were only shown a video.   The results of this study proved babies engaged in face to face contact continued to understand Mandarin and those exposed to video had no grasp of the new language. This brought to mind the old television debate. Are the “learning” shows Buglet watches just washing over him like so much bath water or is he retaining information? One thing is for certain the child does not mince words.  Another thing up for debate is whether or not he is coming up with his peculiar dialogue from the shows I have resigned myself to let him watch or from our daily reading of books.

Bugbee and I recently visited a potential preschool for the Buglet. Windsong came with exceptional recommendations and tuition only for the strong of heart. Our tour left us with amnesia to the pain of the price tag and several days later I mailed off the application with the deposit check. One of the questions on the application concerned the television/video games your child is exposed to. You are to answer with a weekly or daily amount. I immediately began to worry about Buglet’s television consumption. I was certain my child would be rejected.

“Let me think about it,” Buglet says as he maneuvers his Thomas the train around an invisible track. Did he learn this from “Turning Leaf,” the stop motion animation featuring a blue fox who often says, “Let me figure this out,” or is it because I often tell him we will think about it? Do I worry that he refers to himself in 3rd person? Or that he often gets his personal pronouns backwards? Honestly, I am more impressed than worried by his ever-developing dialogue—his willingness to pronounce words and automatic repeating of my own statements.

Ultimately what I took away from Bhattacharjee’s thoughtful report on the developing brain was the conversing between Buglet and I has led to his grasp on language and the more I can continue to engage him in thoughtful, loving conversation, the greater his chances he will retain a high percentage of brain synapses. Instead of saying, “don’t do that” when Buglet uses his hockey stick as a sword I can ask him what his stick is really for, such as hitting pucks into the net. At night when he says “happy mama” I can ask him why he is happy and when I tell him I love you, Buglet, he always replies, “I love you mama.”


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