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What if I Just Ignored My Toddler?

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Guest blogger Dani Klein Modisett: The other day I asked my five-year-old about the music class I took him to every week for two years -- he had no memory of it all.  Then I asked him about the babysitter I fired because I came home one day to find her washing her car out on the street while he stood and watched behind a gate. I was sure he'd be damaged for life by this neglect. He had no idea who I was referring to.

woman with toddler

When he was a toddler I expanded my son's palate daily with avocado and kale and hummus and turkey sausage. Now all he'll eat is pizza and macaroni cheese -- and sometimes he'll choke down a fish stick. Why did I work so hard to educate and nurture my baby if two years later he has childhood amnesia?

If they don't remember anything we do for them from zero to three, why make the effort?

When I'm really tired (most days now) I wonder what would have happened if I didn't give my oldest any of the care and attention I do. Then I remember some urban myth about babies who aren't touched being unable to receive love as adults.

But if babies don't go to "Music Together" will they still have music appreciation later in life? And what about my son's other "issues"? Maybe I should use this memory loss to my advantage. When he refuses to eat anything green, now with his usual defense, "But I HAVE tried it Mom and I don't like it!" I can respond with, "No you haven't Gabriel, I've never fed you spinach before, it's only for grown up boys." Then he'll eagerly grab the fork out of my hand and shove it down his gullet like Popeye! In my dreams ...

Maybe I never should have bathed him at all either. Then bathing would be exciting!

"Moooom, please can I take a bath, PLEASE" my son would beg, grease from his unwashed, four-year-old hair dripping down his forehead into his eyes. "All the other kids get to take baths, come on MOM!!"

As much as I'd like to, I don't think I'll try this on my baby. I guess the early years of parenting are like going to college. You pull a lot of all-nighters, you have no idea if it's going to matter in life, and make sure you experiment with as much drugs and alcohol as you can.

I kid, I kid.


next: Does Watching TV = Spending Time Together?
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley October 25, 2008, 9:33 AM

I sometimes just don’t know what to do with my 16 1/2 month old daughter. After my hubby and 6 year old son go to school, it’s just us. I just do my normal thing and go around and clean house, make beds, etc. She just roams around always with me in her sights and makes messes. I don’t remember my son doing this. He would sit nice and quiet in his room for hours and play. So I don’t know what to do with her. I’m like, maybe I should actually sit down and do stuff with her. But she won’t remember it the next day, so why?? I just feel bad sometimes, while I’m all OCD about cleaning, she is probably so bored.

GInny October 25, 2008, 9:50 AM

Oh, common, people. Everything we do with our babies matter. Just because they don’t remember specifically what you did with them doesn’t mean it isn’t important. By spending time with them and playing with them and loving on them, you are building a sense of security, among other things. Babies minds are like clean slates. A history completely unwritten.

If you put a child in a home where the parents ignore them until they are three, I’d be willing to bet that they would turn out completely different than a child who is brought up in a loving home where they were surrounded by people who played, talked to, and loved on them. (I worked with pre-k, kindergarten and first grade for a number of years. I can tell you exactly which kind of homes most of the kids came from.)

The more you interact with them when they are young, the better. They may not know why they love you, they just do.

Besides, how many of us come home after a terrible day, and all we have to do is see our baby smile, or giggle at us and all our stress melts away? There is a reason for that smile. They know you love them. And they know because of the time you’ve spent with them.

Michelle October 25, 2008, 10:08 AM

Your baby may not remember anything in his very early years, but YOU will. Of course some things are done in excess and can be ridiculous,but every minute is precious and you will look back on those years with fond memories. While I think our children “need” us more when they are older especially when it comes to right and wrong and peer pressure, we certainly don’t want to miss the opportunities to steer our babies in all the right directions as they grow.

Anonymous October 25, 2008, 11:21 AM

This at least makes me feel better when my laptop sits on my lap half the day, working from home.

Proud Mom of five! October 25, 2008, 2:28 PM

The articles you write really are dumb. Of course it matters what you do now with your toddler. I can’t even believe a parent would question it.

Just dumb!

Anonymous October 25, 2008, 2:52 PM

hey proud mom… have you ever heard the term “tongue in cheek”? It never ceases to amaze me how many people on here don’t get it.

not just a mom October 25, 2008, 9:41 PM

babies don’t “need” music class… it’s just a bullshit way to guilt moms into spending money.

Gloria October 26, 2008, 11:55 AM

A mom is likely to be most anxious with her first born. That child will get a ton of attention because of the sheer anxiety of the new parents entering uncharted waters. It’s easy to over-do it on account of all the hype, all the how-to books read. By the time the second baby arrives the parents are likely to be more relaxed, enjoy it more…but they may also be burned out, in the sense that the how-to books don’t inspire them so much anymore, they don’t feel they have to jump through all the hoops. Obsessing and stressing over the baby quite so much is less likely. Maybe that’s what’s happening with ashley and her toddler daughter? But, yeah, she should sit down and do some stuff with her!
There must be a happy medium somewhere. If you stress and strain too much you’re likely to get resentful and too exhausted in every way. You’re also likely to produce a child who’ll have trouble later on of letting go of the idea that he’s the center of the universe. If you take it easy too much the kid will definitely lose out.
Music is good for the brain. Easy to come by, just play something nice right there at home. Talking to the baby is good for language development. So is all sorts of play etc. etc.
But I think it’s super important we take care of ourselves, too. Even more so if your family of origin was a rough place to come from…There’s no such thing as being able to provide the perfect environment anyway, as perfection has never been a part of the human condition. Assessing what you can do without driving yourself crazy, and doing it, and relaxing and enjoying your children as much as possible seems to be a better idea.

Anonymous November 17, 2008, 9:22 PM

I have 4 grandchildren. 2 who were paid alot of attention, 2 who were not. Thank God they won’t remember. They walked , talked & did everything else late. So yes , it makes a big difference. They are 3 1/2 & almost 5 & still not potty broke. It’s really sad. Here’s the amazing factor. Their mother has a 4 year degree in Childhood Development. I bit my tongue for years & finally could take no more. Everytime I saw the girls , their butts were always broke out, beds dirty, & always fed cold food. So needless to say, she & I don’t talk anymore, which is fine by me. All she would do is come to my home, let the kids tear it up, IM on the computer, maybe take a nap, leave a sinkful of dirty dishes, & then be on her way. I do miss the girls , but it is hard to watch that. So please don’t ignore your babies. It makes all the differce in the world. When a 28 month old has the motor skills of an 18 month & has to have speech therapy, someone’s not doing their job.


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