Monday, April 27, 2009

Monkey See Monkey Do

I remember vividly going over to Bec’s house as a youngin' wanting to:

a) Dress up in wigs and wear the patent leather high heels with red polka dots
b) Go out into her play shed and find salamanders, many of which looked like those high heeled shoes
c) Play Paper Boy on her Nintendo console

There were various other games we played (Zing, “how many chews does it take to swallow a Dorito,” "girls with boyfriends"—in the half developed new homes on Stratton Dr, and don’t even get me started on the school bus ridiculousness that we created…why did we try to convince that one girl we spoke Chinese? And what were we thinking with that robot/rubber girl game?)

I was not blessed (cursed?) with Nintendo as a child, so I resorted to coaxing my friends into playing when I had a playdate. And then there was the double bonus friends who had junk food AND Nintendo…Sarah at the end of our street was a warehouse for Twix. While I would never consider myself a “gamer” as a child, I do have memories of getting to steal a few moments to play video games. Why I bring this up is two-fold. First, my status of novice game player was quite evident if you ever watched me play Nintendo. Let’s take Excite Bike.For every jump, or dodging of an oil slick, I would use my hands to “jump” or “dodge.” And I am pretty certain I did a lot of tongue chewing. I think I believed if I "jumped" my hands hard enough, the bike would go higher. It was as though I thought I was playing a Wii. (Not that I have even played one before.) The only time my physicality worked was if I had a friend who had that track and field Nintendo game. Although--let's be honest. You would just jump off the mat for an extended period of time with the long jump, and jump back on. Anyway, I am someone who tends to mimic things with my body. It is diagnosed as UMR: uncontrollable mimicking reaction.

I keep thinking of this when I, say, feed Miles. As he opens his mouth, I immediately open my mouth in tandem subconsciously thinking that the wider I open my mouth, the wider Miles will open his. Eric called me on this the other day and I began to realize how much of his life his mom has been playing a game of copy cat. If he screeches, I screech. When he crawls, I am compelled to get on the floor and crawl with him. I find myself playing monkey see, monkey do. It’s an innate primal urge that I have become acutely aware of recently. It started in infancy..
Baby: coo
Mom: coo
Baby: Yawn
Mom: (faux) Yawn
Baby: stick tongue out
Mom: stick tongue out
Baby: poop
Mom: po…wait. I am going too far.

Eric and I both converse with Miles through his new screeches. Our house is full of wild yells as we echo his bursts of noise. Miles may not use words to mean much (his one friend at childcare only says "ball" and "clue." Clue?!?! That one has me), but he is so loud now. He sort of hums when he crawls and has started to explore yelling to get your attention. I am not sure if it is cute or grating. Hmmm...perhaps both.

Second (yes, I did have a twofold intention to this post—see above). I attended a great talk by Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods. (READ IT) Providing ambiance, the talk was given during one heck of a thunderstorm that incited some electrical trickery as the power went out at a number of strategically positioned times. It added some much needed light to his sentiments. He is a wonderful author, but I am a stickler for engaging presenters. I must give him credit because he did toss in the word perfunctory and that won points with me. He actually acknowledged that he is not a good public speaker, and I have to agree. But the message was clear and passionate—our children need to spend more time outside! Interestingly, he did not blame video games for the problem—it’s not that they are not A problem, but the problem is more insidious and dangerous. He spoke a lot of that special place in nature we all had as a kid that we retreated to—a wooded area where leaves, sticks and dirt became ingredients for imaginary pie, or a park where boulders served as “home” for a made-up family with a baby named Tabitha (I loved that name). While I did have great times at my friends’ houses playing video games on occasion and don't think that my exposure caused irreparable damage, so much of my childhood was spent outside playing all sorts of games both with friends and family as well as all by myself. And yet, children today do not have that connection with nature in the same way. The tag line that kept coming up in the talk was "no child left inside." What’s changed? Well, what hasn’t changed? I really do suggest reading the book as the elements of the problem are multifactorial, and too vast for me to go into.

What I did reflect on during my car ride home as thunder shook my poor Subaru is that it is obvious that Miles loves being outside, but even inside Miles’s favorite place to be (besides with his two feet pushed up against my chest and with a handful of my hair in our bed from 5am-6:30am) is standing on our couch, looking outside of the big picture window. He loves to see the runners, dog walkers, dump trucks, cars, and don’t get me started if Pappi comes to the door. I can just see him absorbing nature even from the confines of inside. He looks up at the sky when he hears a helicopter or darts his eyes down the road when a car approaches. It's like his version of a big screen TV.

This weekend we got to spend the majority of the days outside (with a good smattering of sun tan lotion). Although Miles cannot help us with the lawn mowing (he does try to trim the scragglers by eating them) or planting, I think his senses being inundated with nature at this early age has to make a difference. It is also times like these I am glad we opted for the push mower. Miles chilled on the blanket with his grass clippings, puffs and toys while I mowed the yard right next to him. No gas going in his face, no noise pollution and I got some much needed grass cutting done! Now, planting in pots was a different story as he tried to crawl all over the pots and eat the begonias. Miles goes for walks every day at the ELC, and sometimes more than 1 time. We also try to take him for 45 minute walks or runs every day after work. Even tonight as he was having a meltdown, we committed to going out as a family to walk around the 'hood. Miles immediately calmed down and was lounging in his umbrella stroller, kicking his feet, and pulling his toes to his mouth enjoying life.

In honor of a belated Earth Day I challenge you all to spend at least 45 minutes cumulatively of your day outside—weather permitting. I am not suggesting that we all don't have days where we become a part of the furniture, nor am I suggesting that no one should ever play video games (heck, someone needs to have them for Miles to play as a treat--ha ha), but I believe we owe it to ourselves to get outside and use our senses again--unplugged; and that means no iPods, no cell phone conversations. You'd be surprised what nature has to say.

And for added interest, I suggest watching Frontline's Poisoned Waters online. I have somehow acquired restless leg syndrome and cannot for the life of me get to sleep these days, so I watched this late last night. It really makes you think...especially about chicken poop (and I thought I was obsessed with baby poop).

On a completely unrelated note, here are some of the newest pictures of Miles in action at the ELC. You'll notice his older buddy S is pushing him in the wagon, and in the very bottom one, Miles is finally getting to act in a psuedo "big brother" role. Though, I think he was really just eyeing one of M's hanging toys to chew.


  1. Lovin' the homage to Lackey Street silliness! Don't forget - we also made wicked awesome snow forts and went for walks in the woods! Remember that one storm senior year when we walked to the bridge over the Mass Pike? I LOVED our snow day sleepovers.

  2. It's great to hear about all the adventures you had on Lackey Street! I have memories from my youth outside (creating little leaf boats and acorn families, etc) - obviously such memories are valuable to last a life time.
    The imitating is, as you note, ingrained in us for the purpose of reinforcing babies' behaviors. How encouraging is it for a little one to do something and have the most important people in his life do it back?!?!
    Sorry about depriving you of Nintendo - not!!
    Very cute pictures.

  3. I love that Miles always looks like he is having such fun at childcare. It helps!!! :) He's so cute in that little cart.

    PS. Let's go camping with the kids!