Thursday, May 24, 2007

We Don't Need No Education

Mom-pests, they are everywhere. Especially at the library.

To reinforce my every word of the inaugural We Don't Need No Education post, yesterday's Storytime gave me exemplary moms to skewer and roast.

So Tot and I are in the library, post Storytime—a particularly learning-oriented affair today, with greetings in 50 languages— and then 2 separate moms come along to tweak my vibe.

MOM #1:
She is someone I know only vaguely, and is perfectly nice and all, but has that special aura of the education-driven parent. This means that when reading to her tot, it becomes clear that reading is a very important activity, and must not be interrupted. Vocab words are stressed ("What terrific words here! Can you tell me what the word for this would be?") and enunciated carefully. Gratuitous counting takes place (i.e., the constant focus on the number of bunnies in the bush or tomatoes on the vine or whatever). And overall, a certain Julie-like tone is taken during reading. It is a hushed and delighted and above all, reverential tone. It is that tone that tells the tot she is in the presence of literature and that we must learn to bow before its altar before we can even tie our own shoes.

Mostly I just found it bugging that she seemed so hell-bent on making her kid read and didn't want to shoot the breeze with me.

Now, lest you think I don't dig books or have no aspiration for my own child as a future reader: I majored in French and English literature. I went to a good school. I went to grad school. I have read a book or two. I have even published some...ish... (okay, they were Sweet Valley High novels... and I was just a ghostwriter BUT THEY ARE PRETTY FREAKING GOOD). The point is, I like me some literature. I like me some high culture. I write short stories and they get published in magazines so classy that nobody reads them. People, the Crabmommy reads the New Yorker. I have even read Proust. In French. (Okay, maybe just a smidge of Swann's Way but I guarantee that's more than anyone in Crabtown has read of it. Except you, EB)

So please understand: Crabmommy is a friend of books. I love our library. Even if they do sometimes make the children sing "Old MacDonald lives in Yellowstone."

What I don't like is the mommy-focus on reading as this sacred act. And I always find it ironic that the people who seem most vested in the teaching of literature, art, and music to their tots don't seem to give a rat's bum about these things as grownups. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that Julie gives a toss about literature, art, or music? Is she donating some of those BE shekels to the NEA, or endowing sculpture scholarships? I think not. (And even if she is, I still don't buy it from her.) I think she is the sort of person who, if she saw a poet walking down her street, would call ChildWatch. Okay, I am getting carried away. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there seems to me a gap between what these moms push onto their kids and what the moms themselves are like as adults. Are they listening to opera on their ipods? Are they reading Vaclav Havel's memoir? Do they weep with joy when they finally clap eyes on that Brice Marden? Please.

They are fakes. They are the sort of people who chortle and squeal loudly during comedic lines of Shakespeare. As if they are just knocked out by how funny it is. I am not talking about a slight chuckle when Kate the wench is getting ticked off in "The Taming of the Shrew." I am talking about those false I-am-so -erudite-watch-
me-scream- with-laughter-at-Shakespeare types.

So, ahem. Sorry. Back to Mom#1. The reverential voice. As my mom would call it, a "sepulchral" voice. As in very precious and serious.

Comes in with 2 kids, an older boy and a baby girl. Baby girl makes a lot of noise and I say, "What a lovely loud baby!" To which Mom replies, "Yes, she's already starting to experiment with sounds," or somesuch. Hmm. Already. But I try to ignore and hope for the best.

It's when the mom starts forcing the older kid, who just wants to run around the playroom, to focus on some Spanish and you all know what I think of that. Picture this: preschooler is running around playroom and diving into this wooden boat thing.

Mom: "Do you see the boat door, L? That's called a "porta" in Spanish. Can you count the portas?" Then the ghastly pronunciation begins: "OOH-NO, DOSE, TRAYS!" Then Mom turns to me: "He's dying to learn Spanish. We go to Mexico a lot." Then, Mama starts ASL-ing to the 6 month-old. "Do you want milk?" she asks, signing furiously that teat-of-cow sign we in American Momland have come to know only too well.

It took all my willpower to stop my Crabclaw from reaching out and pinching. And as always, I held my tongue, but my inner crab voice spoke loud and clear and it spoke to me in English: stop with the learning!

My final judgment:
I know I'm generalizing and being harsh, and maybe these 2 poor moms don't deserve it, who knows, but there's a chunk of moms out there who do: Moms who preach learning at all costs, you are insecure. You are striving to make your kids cultured and literary because you yourselves are not. You don't read great books or listen to Mozart. Forget Mozart. You don't listen to much of anything. Or read much of anything. You wouldn't know art if it fell out of the sky and onto your heads. And you like it that way even if, deep down, you suspect it's actually quite lame and pathetic not to engage the world beyond your own.

If you were a bit smarter and more interesting, you would know that it's okay not to worship Mozart.Or admire Monet. But you should probably, like, get excited about something, you know? Other than yourself and your kid's every cognitive milestone, that is.

You LFMs (Learning-Focused Moms), you're not listening, but here's some Crab-advice anyway: if you stop spending so much time on the project of developing little Madeline, you might actually have time to do something else.

Like read a book.


txmama3 said...

even your mere mention of the baby signing for milk made my skin crawl.

Anonymous said...

I've SEEN those women! Now, I might have been inclined to have those 'tendencies' with my first. You read the parenting books and just *know* that your child will be able to pick up a raisin this month...because that's what the book says. I really mellowed out, however, toward the end of her first year. I found that if I spent my days just trying to boost her intelligence that I wasn't actually getting a lot of quality time with her. LET THEM BE KIDS, for crying out loud!

Now, we all applaud wildly as our THIRD child (16 months) does flips off of the furniture. She learns more out of fighting over toys with her sister than she could from learning SPANISH or ASL! She is happy, like a toddler should be.

I love your take on this. Maybe today's kids are suffering from ADHD NOT because of the television, but rather from the 'information overload' that their parents are dumping on them.

LET THEM BE KIDS! And if mom is not happy (from consuming herself with things she's not really interested in in the first place) then how can the kids be happy?

3 good eggs said...

Oh Crabmommy you crack me up.
Thanks for the laughs!

Helen said...

Hahahahahaha! I enjoyed this post. I was also a "by the book" mommy with my first, half and half with my second, and now I'm sitting here listening to my 2 year old scream in her room as she can't figure out how to open the door and get out. Eventually I'll meander over there and open the door for her. I know when I do she will be in here jumping off the coffee table and making me laugh.

Sharon - Mom Generations said...

Ahhh... you are a fresh breath of air! I couldn't agree with you more!! I experience the SAME women in my own library group - and it drives me crazy! I have 3 boys - 2 1/2, 1 1/2 and 7 weeks old - my older 2 like going to the library - mainly to see other kids and that is exactly why I got them into it. To meet people (ok, and for me to meet some cool, hip moms!)... but there are 2 moms in this group that find the need to "pretend" their kids read, write and draw like picasso. It's annoying - ok, beyond annoying! All these kids want to do is run around and jump and sing and dance, but they are not allowed to!!
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Pinks & Blues Girls said...

I think insecure for sure, and the "performances" in the library are probably just that. When I see that type of parenting, it always makes me wonder if they're like that at home behind closed doors?

The problem with it is, that everyone seems so guilt ridden and insecure about their parenting that it seems to perpetuate the same silly behaviour in their other mommy friends!

It's the mom version of 'keeping up with the Jones' out there! *sigh* It makes me crazy.

matthew pierce said...

Sometimes my tot grabs a fat book and I just don't have the energy to get through it, so I just turn 4 pages at a time to speed things up. She has no idea.

EB said...

Dearest Crabmommy,

I must confess to you that I haven’t read Proust either! Shame! The closest I’ve been is this very delightful little book called "how Proust can change your life" although, upon finishing the book, my life remained very much unchanged. In any case, they tell me it is a loooong journey through the monumental dimensions of his epic, so I’d be very suspicious of anyone claiming they’ve actually read Proust. Very suspicious… One could state I have read a piece of Proust, at the most. As if one was dealing with uncountable advice, gum or news.

matthew pierce said...

Of course, she keeps grabbing "In Search of Lost Time, Volume 3", so can you blame me?

Villagepig said...

You know both of my parents are from farm stock - typical Boere kinders if you get my meaning. They both hate reading and anything vaguely cultural and yet somewhere along the line I became the family nerd/weirdo. So it just goes to show that kids will do what they will do.

I have recently started to experience immense amounts of guilt because I haven't coninued with dedicated reading time with the boys (they refuse to sit down - and why should they? - and they would much rather have my attention on them) but now I'm thinking, screw it! If they wanna do it, they will :-)


Anonymous said...

Crab MOmmy, I love you! The ones I hate the worst are the stupid moms in the produce section holding up the whole damned line while they COUNT the apples, and the grapes and the kiwis. Who let their kids select the yogurt.

FWIW, I was a crazy reading mommy with my first. He turned out hyperlexic with Asperger's. Now when I see someone bragging about how CRAZY little Sylvester is about books, I make sure to tell them it's a symptom of autism. Sure shuts them up!

Anonymous said...

You wrote Sweet Valley High novels!!! I kiss the ground you walk on! My idol! ;)

Deborah said...

C'mon fess up... Which Sweet Valley High Novels? Because I swear I read them all. We are all dying to know.

Anonymous said...

Being a former teacher, I get the questions/expectations of such behavior in mom-versation ALOT! "Oh, of course, you WORK with them at home, right?" Uh, no! It's not who or what I want to be with them. Besides, I WORK at home enough as it is! No need to add MORE stuff that I'm supposed to get done. (OK, I admit, my hub & I did the whole baby sign language thing with our first, but it was mostly just to entertain cracked us up to see her frantically trying to tell us something and combining all the "please/help/want" signs in her attempt to "communicate" with us! Talk about flailing!)

Anyhoo--I'm with you on this one, CrabMom. I let them play, send them to preschool, get them into the occasional music or gym class, read to them just for fun (and to get them settled in bed) and figure they'll get "EDUCATED" soon enough--by the other professionals!