One thing that I wasn’t prepared for as a parent (along with the frequency of getting poop on my hands) is the amount of teaching you need to do. With an infant, teachable moments seem few and far between because there is so little give and take. Yes, you talk and read and point things out, but there is no interaction.
With a toddler, it is constant.
At around a year, you need to be an ever vigilant teacher. Olive is constantly pointing, picking things up, tasting things, and talking. Yes, I can just let her play with those blocks or paw at flower petals without telling her what color the blocks are or showing her how to smell flowers, but I have this constant fear that my daughter is going to go through life without absolutely vital skills, like knowing what sound a pig makes or that grass isn’t for eating.
It can be exhausting. If Olive picks up a ball and starts playing with it, you have to make a choice. Do I just let her play quietly by herself, without Daddy hovering over her -- or do I start teaching.
-Yes, that is a ball.
-Can you say ball? B-B-B-B-Ball?
-It is a green ball, isn’t it?
-Can you throw the ball?
-Throw the ball to daddy, Olive.
Then she throws the ball and you need to confirm with her that, yes, that was the action you requested.
-Good job, honey. You threw the green ball to daddy. Oh, now you want to play with the puzzle?
And this isn’t just during playtime. This is when she is eating (Are those good blueberries? What is that? Is that a fork?) When we are in the grocery store (Yes, that is a banana). During bathtime (I’m washing your hands now, Olive. Can you show me your hands?).When we are in the car (Do you see the school bus, Olive? The yellow school bus? Do you see the douche bag who just cut daddy off, honey? How many fingers is daddy holding up, Olive? One! That’s right!). See what I mean about it getting tiring.
And we teach our kids absolutely useless information. Children’s books are filled with references to animals that live on farms or entire other continents. Why does it matter if Olive knows that a sheep says “Baa.” I’m pretty sure that sheep are never going to play a major role in her life. And hate to break it to you, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, but no one cares what you hear. You are going to be extinct by the time Olive goes to high school anyway.
But these teachable moments do have a payoff. Olive is picking up new words slowly but surely. She is starting to be able to perform tricks like pointing to her nose and stomping her feet. One of her favorite activities is grabbing books from her bookshelf, walking over to the middle of the room, sitting down, and starting to “read.” When she flips open the book she babbles, I assume imitating mommy and daddy reading out loud to her.
She doesn’t exactly have the longest attention span though…so now I just need to teach her that books have more than one page.