Like most new parents-to-be, my husband and I were absolutely elated when we found out we were going to have our own precious Little One after spending the previous four years welcoming nephews and nieces into our already large, blended family. Once the euphoria settled down, reality (and, if I’m being honest, pure and utter terror) settled in…
“I know I’m 31, but I don’t feel ‘old enough’ to be a mom yet!”
“How on EARTH am I supposed to be in charge of another human being ALL. THE. TIME?”
And the classic:
“Am I going to be good enough for this little baby?”
As we all know, ready or not, Mother Nature is going to help you bring that baby into the world and you’re going to have face those doubts head on.
Meet Will! He blessed our family with his presence on May 17, 2016 at 10:14 p.m.
Now, let’s backtrack a little bit. I like to consider myself a good combination of Type A and Type B personalities, but when it came to this baby, my hyper-organized “planner” characteristics went into overdrive. After spending the previous two and a half years working with children as young as three with learning challenges, I knew, without a doubt, I was going to be proactive when it came to my son’s education.
The first thing I could do for him, before he even arrived, was start interviewing the best possible schools for him, knowing he would be spending his entire days there starting at three months of age. My husband and I visited several “typical” daycare facilities near our home, all of which tried to “wow” and “impress” us with their integration of iPads, laptops, and digitized media. Little did they know, alarm bells were going off in my head like that annoying morning alarm clock you can’t seem to shut off. No way was my son going to sit in an infant classroom with an iPad in front of him all day. Knowing what I know about screen time and its negative effects on brain development, especially in young children, this was a major red flag for me. My husband even nailed it when we got in the car to leave, “You hated that they said the word ‘iPad’ about three dozen times, didn’t you?” Bingo!
After visiting several facilities with no luck, I started to panic, sure we were never going to find what we were looking for. Then God stepped in, like He always does, and reminded me that He’s got this! By some miracle, a spot in the infant class at the Child Development Center at Georgia State University (my husband is an employee at GSU) had opened up and it was ours if we wanted it! The beauty of CDC at Georgia State is that they open their doors to students in the nursing program, early childhood education program, and psychology departments in order to gain critical field experience and conduct research studies on willing participants. This was right up my alley! And the best part of it all? There was not a screen in sight!!!
Will began attending school on his 3-month birthday and after some First Day Mommy Tears, we haven’t looked back! His teachers actively engage in play, song, stories, and rhymes with him all day long! It makes my Mom Heart feel good to know he is so unconditionally loved all day and it makes my Teacher Heart happy knowing he is being taught and challenged in developmentally appropriate ways each day.
Of course, I have to do my part at home as well. Will has been listening to the history and geography tunes we sing with our students at Academics Plus since he was in the womb. His particular favorite is “Western Europe” (“Luxembourg, Leichtenstein, Switzerland…”). To this day, that song will calm him down if he is in a particularly cranky mood. Sometimes I feel crazy singing world geography songs to my infant, but slowing it down and over-pronouncing each syllable is great for his phonemic awareness and language development!
We also sing nursery rhymes on what seems like a constant loop at our house. As cheesy as I may look, I know the more dramatic I am with my intonation and facial expressions, the easier he is going to pick up on the natural rhythms and cues of social language. My sweet boy loves to engage in “conversation” with anyone and even takes turns babbling back and forth with whoever will engage with him.
Sometimes we just walk around the house or the yard and look at and touch everything. I make it a point to name each item we see. Why not start building that vocabulary now! I also make it a point to use a lot of synonyms. Instead of “big”, why not “huge”, “large”, “gigantic”, or “enormous”?!
I totally get it, though. There are days where I am exhausted from helping my Academics Plus babies build their cognitive and educational foundations and I can’t imagine going home and doing it all evening, too. It would be so much easier to go home and pop my Little Guy in his walker in front of the TV for a little Mickey Mouse Clubhouse mini-marathon. But… my gut won’t let me do it, no matter the circumstances. Will’s little brain is growing and building connections at an astounding rate and he is primed for learning now, so it’s my job to make sure we take full advantage of this time because we will only get it once.
The bottom line is this: You are never too young to start laying foundations for your education.