Dear Ms. Brody,
Thank you for your latest column in the NYTimes about the importance of talking to babies. What an extraordinary concept!
I recently stopped to congratulate a young mother pushing her toddler in a stroller. The woman had been talking to her barely verbal daughter all the way up the block, pointing out things they had passed, asking questions like "What color are those flowers?" and talking about what they would do when they got to the park.
This is a rare occurrence in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I told her. All too often, the mothers and nannies I see are tuned in to their cellphones, BlackBerrys and iPods, not their young children.
Wow. In my day (seven years ago, a.k.a the Early Aughts) we didn't know that "talking" helps your child get "words." We didn't even have the excuse of Blackberries or whatnot. We just never understood that words were the noises you used with your mouth to communicationate (that’s the word, right?) at your children. I do wish you had written this earlier.
Strangely enough, I did actually talk quite a bit with and around my son, but it was mainly for my own foolish, self-centered reasons. For instance: I wanted to keep from going insane. Also: it was fun to talk to him and hear him coo back at me. What a jerk I was. But I must admit: sometimes I did talk on the phone, Jane. To someone else. Because I wanted to hear the voice of a fellow adult, Jane. I did. And I would pretend I was talking to him, and he would laugh and chortle as if we were having a conversation when in fact that conversation was with someone else entirely. What kind of monster was I? I’m sure you would know.
Thank goodness for you, Ms. Brody! And I think it's just super that you congratulated a mom for talking to her kid. I bet that mom was wondering at that very moment, "Why has no one remarked on all this infernal speaking? My throat is raw from describing every damned thing I see. If I don't receive positive reinforcement this moment, I will never talk about another flower again.”
Did you then go on to cluck and shake your head at the mom who maybe was zoning out for a moment, allowing her child a peaceful interlude while she strolled him down the sidewalk? I certainly hope so. Moms like that deserve a taste of the Brody.
I have some follow-up questions:
-My son didn't like it this morning when I mimicked his noises, as you suggested, and kept telling him "You are communicating and I am listening and responding!" I should mention that he's seven. What am I doing wrong?
-Sometimes talking gets hard and when I talk my vision tunnels and the room goes dark and I wake up a few hours later and my boy is crying. Which am I forgetting: inhaling or exhaling?
-My son can't figure out how to work the Blackberry I gave him for Christmas. Or the iPod. His Facebook updates lack originality, and he has no interest in Twitter. Should I sell him and start over?
-If I had a baby and did everything you commanded and someone else accused me of overwhelming my newborn child with stimuli, how shall I kill them? I'm sure your instructions were in there somewhere, but I missed them.
-The Yellow Face in the sky, it burns. Should I present offerings to it, or merely hide, cringing, in the shadows?
Yours in endurance,