|Raising a little mind|
My mind is a weird universe.
Deep inside my rather average human skull, galaxies of thought merge together in an airless crush of illuminated ideas and memory dark matter, populated by lumbering planets of trivial knowledge and vast black holes of forgetfulness and repression.
My mental cosmos is regularly rocked by solar storms of jealousy and meteorites of excitement, and is littered with nearly three decades worth of useless space junk and eclectic verbal and visual debris.
I often forget that there are universes outside my own. Every now and then, though, I come out of my private starry jumble and realise that my baby daughter has a mini mind universe of her very own.
She has a mushrooming brain which is spinning and evolving in her cute little head at a dizzying rate of knots - she has a brain which I am currently, completely, terrifyingly, responsible for.
When I am suitably distracted by an outpouring of milk spew, or a wayward pile of dirty socks, or a nappy turned safety hazard, this responsibility jumps out from behind the fridge and terrifies me with it's sheer weight and breadth.
I feel that I am entirely unqualified to shoulder this responsibility, and unprepared for the immense challenge that is simultaneously lying on the change table in front of me today and (perhaps, hopefully not) drunkenly swaying in a brash nightclub in 2031.
Sure, I've had my own mind to look after for nearly thirty years now, but indulging my own mental warblings and insecurities ad infinitum is not nearly enough qualification to guide a fresh mind through the developmental woods and into the adult city.
This sense of inadequacy is not new. It began when my husband and I left the hospital, and we were just allowed to walk out the door with a baby - and take her home, all by ourselves. I kept craning my neck and looking back down the corridor, convinced that it was all a terrible mistake and someone would catch up to us promptly to yell at us with a stern voice and steer us back to the maternity ward for supervision.
Of course, no one came. Time has dribbled on, and so have I, a mask of nice breastfeeding tops and sun protective BB cream hiding my inner fretting from the outside world.
For every cog that turns in her beautiful little mind, I worry: is it turning far enough, is it turning fast enough, is it spinning in the right direction, is it just free wheeling in space?
For every spark of ignition that lights up behind her eyes, I wonder: is it aimed in the right direction, is it producing enough heat, is it too hot, will something else I do accidentally extinguish it?
I worry when I play nursery rhymes for fun that I should actually be playing classical composers such as Vivaldi and Mozart for education, so I frantically scour Youtube for something different and end up playing heavy rock for her instead. Then I realise she has been watching the clip on the computer screen instead of listening to the music, and I become convinced that I am rotting her brain faster than it can grow.
To feed her mind, I read to her day and night. We are building an amazing and growing collection of picture books , which will one day catch up to my own large scale library of literature and non-fiction. Yet when she becomes entranced by the green sheep, or tries to hit the pages with her sticky fingers, I fret that perhaps I am teaching her to love pictures instead of words, and would be better slowly working my way through the traditional western canon?
To feed her body, I give her a combination of mush and finger food every day. Sometimes, I feel that giving her any form of mush is cheating her out of the chance to develop a normal relationship with foods in their natural state, weird textures and strange skins and all. Other times, such as when she is pushing a piece of cheesy toast directly onto her eyeball, I worry that she will develop a complex about food being a tricky and slippery beast that leaves you red-faced and should to be avoided wherever possible.
My sense of concern spreads from the kitchen to the wardrobe on a daily basis. I don't believe the colours I dress her in will impact on her psyche - pink and blue are just two colours from the big crayon box of life. I do worry, though, that the way I dress her will impact how my friends, her friends and society at large perceive and receive her.
Could a simple colour or frill or logo print cause someone to laugh or sneer or disrespect? Could this type of interpersonal reaction kink the relationship and confidence wires currently cabling themselves through her brain? I still smart when I remember insults about my (one and only) short haircut as a fourteen year old, I can't even imagine what an insult would do to a baby or toddler who is just building their mental world.
Of course, I also panic about sending my daughter to child care. Not only do I stress about the ramifications of sending her to child care at all, I worry about the type of child care our family has chosen and how that one single choice could shape the whole future of her mental universe.
I could have waited for a family day care position to become available - but we didn't. We could have skipped child care altogether - but we haven't. We could have hired a private nanny - but we won't. Instead, she will run and mingle and jostle with the other little ones in the day care centre and fall into a group routine and a structured activity plan. Will this play havoc with her cosmic fabric or draw a straight pathway through the stars and asteroids?
I could have sent her to a bilingual daycare centre that offered English and Italian, but I lucked out in the child care lottery - which was good (because I don't have to learn Italian next year) and bad (because I'll probably have to learn Italian anyway sometime to teach her the bilingual skills she didn't pick up at daycare).
Deep down, of course, I fret about this decision too. Maybe this will stop her from traveling to Italy, maybe the mental domino trail set to be affected by bilingual language development will never fall and instead stand like resolute mental obstacles in her brain ...
My mind is a weird universe. I wonder if my daughter's will be too?
Linking up With Some Grace for FYBF
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