Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I was poised to write something else, but then my eyes rolled out of my head

I woke up in a mighty good mood, that is, until I caught a segment on GMA, between my morning coffee and my morning monologues, delivered by two chatty offspring.

(Today's topics: Bedroom Design for Girls Who Have Outgrown Princess Pink for Heaven's Sake and How Lego Star Wars Transformed my Life in Six Easy Steps.)

Juju Chang, with her shiny hair and sweet 5 month old baby boy, introduced the LENA system. A system designed to send moms right over the edge and into a therapist's office to count how many words you say to your child, during the first three years of life. Yes, for a mere $400, you too can place a pager-like monitor on your baby, to track your wordcount on your PC every night.

The makers of the LENA device claim that babies need to hear 17,000 words a day - any ol' talking will do - for you to CREATE YOUR VERY OWN PRODIGY their wee little brains to develop and as an added bonus feature, you can also track their babbling and create bar graphs to compare junior to his peers.

Now, my son had dyspraxia and other developmental delays so I know the early intervention terrain like the back of my google reader: Folks, I lived it. And I'd be the first in your circle of friends to urge you to seek an evaluation if your kiddo isn't talking. But the chit-chatting to my kid thing? I had that nailed. (Exhibit A: Lexi and her 18 month-old dinosaur vocabulary. Oh say can she say Brach-i-o-saurus.) I imagine Zack spent many hours, squirreled away in his silent world, making plans for a baby man-cave of sorts, to escape the many words hurled his direction during those early years, saddled with his long winded female family all day.

The thought never occurred to me, as I sat in therapist waiting rooms, that if Meth Mama over yonder would have spent just a little more time talking up the latest ingredients in her special peanut butter crank, that her sweetie would be just fine. I'm pretty sure a tweaker could take on my motor mouth but that sort of rambling doesn't undo neglect, I'm afraid.

And that's what got me up in arms. That's the point of the segment: Keeping fear alive and well and in our homes.

That if I somehow chart my child's progress, I can outrun autism. Dyspraxia. Delays. If I monitor my daily word count down to the very last 'the' between saving the Earth, and preventing lice, and following the election, and volunteering, and ignoring Oprah's smug suggestions about not losing myself because I am a mom, and looking 10 years younger, and sneaking spinach in my brownies, and trying to be sexy for my husband, and calling for educational reform, and praying and, meditating, and packing the lunches, and squeezing in my spanx, why by golly, I will come through this life unscathed.

I'm sure the next segment featured some report about how American women are not getting enough sleep; they're eating too much, drinking too much and popping way too many pills. And some reporter will paste a puzzled grin on her face and act all alarmed by these trends. Like she's surprised.


I don't know. I turned it off. I'm too busy to live in fear.

Now excuse me while I conduct my own research. I'm wondering if the amount of words I hear every day, as an addled Supermom of two, could be adding points to my IQ.

I'm going to be a blooming GENIUS.



brandy101 said...

THIS is why I don't watch daytime tv!!!! (Its also why I refer to a certain TV host as "Dope-rah.")

It has degenerated into utter crapitude over the years.

stu said...

Great post Lisa.

I think Zack is still planning a man cave, all men do.


flutter said...


Do I even hear 17k words a day?

Christi said...

You are so on, Lisa!! That was good.

I just read in my "mom"magazine that my five month old should be hearing 30,000 words from me a day. Even though I know to even put thought about how I am doing in that area is ridiculous, I still did. I guess this world is a little confusing and that's just how some cope.

JCK said...

I am with you, girlfriend! I agree with you. This fear mongering is offensive and everywhere these days. My eyes are rolling around with yours!

I am also a mom of a boy who had speech delay. I talked nonstop to both of my kids, because I tend to be a chatterbox. My girl started early, my boy later. But, they both have a large vocabulary. If he had been "tested" by this equipment, he would have fallen short. Yet, when he decided to talk - he just talked!

natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natalie said...

lisa milton, i love you. for your frankness, for your ability to write. i want to share this post with the world. i'm so with you!

(just this past weekend i was with a bunch of mom's and the topic started on #7 plastic...i too got this feeling like, there is so much to be fearful of and i'm tired of it. i was sitting next to someone from outside the USA and she leaned over to me and said, 'this country is paranoid'. while we freak out about plastics and word counts the rest of the world doesn't have clean water or refrigeration. i looked at her and agreed. we are paranoid.)

Minnesota Matron said...

I feel queasy when I see Baby Einstein tapes. Deft, speedy and sharp prose in this post, too :-)

stephanie said...

Well said (in 17,000 words or less!).

It makes me supremly agitated to hear these loons representing American culture. As a teacher, I play clean-up crew to this nonsense everyday.

Maybe we can hook up the LENA to track how many times we say 'crap' or 'damn' or 'MOTHERF*CKER' just to completely freak out the Juju Changs of this society...

katydidnot said...

seventeen are you freaking kidding me thousand effing words? a day?

nuh uh.

Erika said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAAH!!! OMG _ AMEN!!!! Call me in 10 minutes to see if I am still alive from laughing OUT LOUD GOOD AND HARD!!! OH my gosh, amen!

I mean, I like you, am a talker. I am just now learning to be quiet. To quiet my mind so I can "hear" and they want me to flood it again for the bambino?! What about the child learning how to be silent????? that PEACE can be a good thing?! 17K words a day w/ a monitor like a pedomenter? I cant believe they werent kidding with that segment! Turn it OFF - talk about noise, those morning people are insane! Good gravy I am STILL LAUGHING and that's hard for my fingers & my smile to work at the same time like this - but i am sure its healthy, so thank you very much for the comedy tonight!!!! :) LOVE IT! crazy gma people.

Mrs. G. said...

Oh brother. Some people just have too much time and money. I wish they would send me some.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, people are crazy. Are we really that messed up? How can crap like that even get on TV without someone- anyone!- putting a stop to it. There is something wrong...

Beck said...

If anyone comes up with a way to prevent lice, I will vote for that person to win the Nobel prize.

lapoflux said...

Thank you. This was a brilliant post.

Kimberly said...

Brilliant post, Lisa. The world is full of fear mongering, and most of it involves the selling of something.

Cheri said...

Get. Out. Of. Town.

What therapy bills will the kid have from having to wear an electronic listening device for three years?

Oh. My. Gosh.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

I think I'll swear at my children 17,000 times a day.