My daughter is an only child from her father and I and the only Grandchild my parents have. For a long time before and after she was born, there weren't any kids in our family. Of all of my friends who are parents, my daughter is the youngest of the first born children. As a new Mommy, I didn't know anything about being a parent so I started reading about parenthood.
First, it was the books that they give you when you find out you're pregnant; What to Expect When You're Expecting and the like. One of the things I kept seeing was how important it is to read to the child, to talk to the child even from the womb. So, I did. Not knowing her sex, I just told the baby what I was doing (while trying not to look like I was talking to myself), narrating as I went about my day. At night, I would read whatever I was reading to her and I would play rudiments with my fingers on my belly.
Once she was born, I talked to her all the time. ALLLL the time. I'd ask her questions and pretend that she was responding.
How was your day?
What did you do?
You know Mommy missed you...
Yes, I did. I missed you SO much!"
To which she would just stare at me and not respond. When I went back to work, I would call her from work and do the same thing; my mom would hold the phone to her ear while I talked and talked.
Eventually, I would say she was about six months old, she began responding to me. The first time she did it, I was at work and we were on the phone.
"How are you?!"
"Are you being a good girl?"
This went on for several minutes until my mother pulled the phone away. She was just as excited as I was to see that Shey was finally responding to my talking. Not surprisingly, my daughter's first word was MaMa followed shortly thereafter with "YaYa"; the name she chose for my mom.
Even before Shey began speaking, however, I knew that she understood what I was saying to her. Speech comes long after comprehension (if you ask me, I don't know if that's a fact, but it was true in Shey's case.)
When she was about 10 months old, her father and I were exchanging her. As he was leaving, she did something I didn't appreciate and I chastised her. Paul got upset with me and chided me for doing so. "She's a baby Achsha! She doesn't understand!" I looked at him like he had seven heads. "Are you kidding me? Watch this." "Shey-Shey, go get Mommy a diaper." Not yet walking, she crawled into my bedroom and returned with a diaper tucked under her arm. I changed her, put her on the floor and handed her the dirty diaper. "Okay baby, now go put this in the garbage." She crawled away to the kitchen, pulled herself up by the garbage can and put the diaper into the trash before crawling back over to me and motioning for me to pick her up.
You could've picked Paul's face up off of the floor. He couldn't believe it. "She doesn't understand?" My laugh was an 'I told you so' in itself. I told him to give her some credit. As adults, we're the ones who underestimate children. They are limitless! We are the ones who tend to stifle their learning by thinking that they are not capable of picking up on things.
When I was pregnant, I heard or read somewhere that there is a direct correlation between the number of words a child hears before their first birthday and the level of education that they will be able to attain. I heard or read later that Black children hear one million fewer words before the age of five than their white counterparts. Really? (By the way; words from TV don't count.)
Funny story; the Christmas after Shey's third birthday, we were at my parents' house having dinner. After dinner, Shey was dressing up in her newly acquired princess attire. She walked over and said "Mommy, how do I look?" to which I replied "Honey, you look gorgeous!" She looked at me with all seriousness and said "No Mommy, say da-stingwished."
You could've picked MY face up off the floor. I've said all that to say; interact with your children and those around you. And remember; reading is FUNdamental.
C is for Cookie - Cookie Monster
(An all time fave #classic)