Introduction to Brain Rules for Baby

This is an excerpt from Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina.  I have fallen in love with his book Brain Rules, and discovered the baby version on his website.  I wish the school system would read this and stop trying to stuff reading in five-year-olds like they are pate’ geese on the way to slaughter.

From the introduction.  See it here:

Scientists certainly don’t know everything about the brain. But what we do know gives us our best chance at raising smart, happy children. And it is relevant whether you just discovered you are pregnant, already have a toddler, or find yourself needing to raise grandchildren. So it will be my pleasure in this book to answer the big questions parents have asked me—and debunk their big myths, too. Here are some of my favorites:

Myth: Playing Mozart to your womb will improve your baby’s future math scores.

Truth: Your baby will simply remember Mozart after birth—along with many other things she hears, smells, and tastes in the womb. If you want her to do well in math in her later years, the greatest thing you can do is to teach her impulse control in her early years.

Myth: Exposing your infant or toddler to language DVDs will boost his vocabulary.

Truth: Some DVDs can actually reduce a toddler’s vocabulary. It is true that the number and variety of words you use when talking to your baby boost both his vocabulary and his IQ. But the words have to come from you—a real, live human being.

Myth: To boost their brain power, children need French lessons by age 3 and a room piled with “brain-friendly” toys and a library of educational DVDs.

Truth: The greatest pediatric brain-boosting technology in the world is probably a plain cardboard box, a fresh box of crayons, and two hours. The worst is probably your new flat-screen TV.

Myth: Telling your children they are smart will boost their confidence.

Truth: They’ll become less willing to work on challenging problems. If you want to get your baby into Harvard, praise her effort instead.

Myth: Children somehow find their own happiness.

Truth: The greatest predictor of happiness is having friends. How do you make and keep friends? By being good at deciphering nonverbal communication. Learning a musical instrument boosts this ability by 50 percent. Text messaging may destroy it.

Research like this is continually published in respected scientific journals. But unless you have a subscription to the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, this rich procession of findings may pass you by. This book is meant to let you know what scientists know—without having a Ph.D. to understand it.

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One Week Old: The Land of Cuteness

Lara Gardner’s Weblog, so long full of angst and loneliness, heartache and concern, now a lovefest to her new baby.  I’m giddy in love with this little person.  She is lying here nursing right now and making these little hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm noises between gulps.  Her little right hand is resting on her cheek, her left hand on her chest. She is so relaxed, so content, such a delightful little human.  She sighs, then hmms, then takes another drink.  Pure and utter bliss.  How boring I must be to read right now!  I don’t even care.  How wonderful it is to be bathed in gobs of loviness.  I cannot complain.

Today we went to the little shop where I bought her g diapers because I could not figure out how to use them properly.  I bought a couple of newborn sizes, and received several small sizes from Daddy’s mom.  The newborn ones didn’t work.  The small ones were too big.  It turns out that the cloth inserts really don’t work that well when they are really little.  There are disposable, biodegradable inserts that work for these little ones.  We went and bought some of these inserts and lo and behold, they work!  I’m pleased because we have been using some disposable ones, but they just aren’t as soft. They are supposed to be biodegradable.  Maybe that is why they aren’t very soft, but the non-biodegradable ones aren’t soft either, so that’s probably not it.  They just aren’t cloth, which is softer.  That’s all there is to it.

Our little dog Ava is very curious about the baby, but she is also very good.  She sits a bit of a distance away and leans her head forwardly, cautiously sniffing.  What is that thing? she seems to ask.  She looks at the baby, then looks at me, then looks back at the baby, giving her a good sniff.  Between Milla, Ava, and Isabel, we live in the land of cuteness. It is nice place to be.

I am in Love

There are some just dog things, such as the way they trot in front of you with their ears back, going the way you go, that I just adore in this puppy of mine.  I love how wherever I go in the house she follows me.  My dog Autumn did that.  It was one of the hardest things to lose when she died.  Even as I write this, Ava is lying at my feet.  There are also some unique to Ava things I love about her.  She sits on my feet.  If I am in a place and standing and talking or sitting and talking to someone else, she perches on my foot.  She will do this when I am saying goodbye to Dan or Milla as they leave the house to go do something and I am staying home.  Ava sits there on my foot, I am staying here with her, she seems to say, you go have fun.  We will be here when you get back. Then as I move into the house to do whatever, she follows me.

Years and years ago, I may not have even been out of my teens, I read The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.  I don’t remember much of it at all.  I read it because it was a bestseller.  I don’t even recall its premise.  But I remember one thing vividly.  He argues that humans can never really love a dog, or any other animal, because to love as he defines it requires reciprocation in kind.  My feelings in response are unchanged:  I wholeheartedly disagree.  There are different kinds of love.  There are loves that are equally reciprocal, usually with the person we choose as a mate, but also with certain friends or even family members.  But by his definition, I could not truly love an infant or a small child or someone who does not love me back in the same way and with the same articulation.  What a limiting view of human capacity.  I absolutely love my dog, as I have loved other dogs before her. It does not matter that her adoration of me is different.  It is there.  It does not simply vanish because we come from different places.Can I Kiss You

Ava moved from the floor beneath my feet to the corner of the bed.  She likes to sit on the corner and look at us sitting here at the desk or look out the window.  She hovers with her paws over the edge of the bed frame, her head rested on them, looking at me.

She makes distinct faces, this dog.  The most common is what we call her happy face, her mouth slightly open, tongue out, eyes bright, often one ear cocked.  She’ll turn her head slightly as if to ask Do you want to play? In these moments I stop what I’m doing and play with her.

In the morning, when she wakes up, she has the most incredible bed head.  Her eyes are all sleepy, her hairs all akimbo.  She’ll crawl to the top of the bed, as if the effort is more than she can bear, then sigh and relax as we snuggle and pet her.  Later, wild dog comes out, chasing bears and fozzies, rattling them mightily from side to side until they are dead.  Sometimes she brings them to us and requests that we throw them.  We do, because watching her little sheep butt run away to get them is one of life’s greatest joys.  She does not like these stuffed creatures to have eyes.  Within a half an hour of getting a new stuffed toy she removes its eyes.  Perhaps she does not want it to see her remove all its innards piece by piece.  More likely she loves that the pieces are hard and fun to chew.

After she has a bath she runs through the house like she’s on fire, ears back, bolting from room to room. What is that, dogs running after baths?  I understand their desire to rub themselves dry on the floor, but the running around after, I wonder why they do that.  Almost every dog I have ever owned has gone running after getting a bath.  However, none of them have run like Ava does.  The others have all just gone for their run to dive into their rubs.  This one just runs like a bat out of hell from room to room, then comes and stares at me with the happy face, tongue lolling out, eyes bright. Then off she goes again to make another round.  It’s hilarious.

Ava isn’t thrilled with having baths.  She is actually one of the more obnoxious dogs I have had to bathe.  It’s a good thing she is small and easy to hold down because she really hates it and tries to escape.  Yet she is intrigued by the bathtub, or rather, people showering or bathing.  When Milla takes a shower, it is a guarantee that Ava will be in there standing on the edge of the tub, peeking around the shower curtain, her little sheep butt wagging its little tail.  When any of us bathe, she comes and stands and looks in.  Maybe she is curious why we would want to do something so hideously awful.  Or maybe she just wants our company.

As I have mentioned, she loves to snuggle.  She is thrilled at her ability to jump on the bed.  She could not always do it by herself, but she grew and figured it out and seems to take great pleasure in it.  And jumping off. I can jump on the bed!  I can jump off the bed!  See?  I launch myself many feet past the bed!  Aren’t I skilled? Anyway, she will jump on the bed if I am lying there and come and lie across my neck and sigh.  She’s my little doggie stole.  She’ll snuggle there a while and get kisses from me, and strokes and rubs.  She knows I do not like her to kiss me.  She does not even try anymore.  Dan lets her kiss him.  I think it’s gross.  But she knows he doesn’t mind so she licks him all over.  The only time she licks me is when I get out of the shower.  She will come in and lick the water off of my feet  until I dry them.

This dog makes me happy.  That’s the simple fact of it.  She came along when I was very sad.  There were so many reasons, many of them huge, for my sadness.  One of them was grief over the loss of my house and the loss of the dogs who lived with me there.  I would have dreams about them, dreams they were still alive or still lived with me.  Vivid dreams.  Then this little dog came to live with us and I suddenly felt the desire to laugh again.  I laugh every day living with her.  She’s a happy, wonderful little spirit.  Frankly, I’m completely smitten.  I am in love.