Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning by Osmosis

No joke: when I was in college, I slept with my exam notes under my pillow. This was actually a little bit more practical than it sounds, because I wasn't really expecting the information to seep into my brain overnight (although I certainly wouldn't have complained). I did read over the notes last thing before I fell asleep, hoping that my brain would soak up some of the information during its nighttime activities. And even though I remember very few economic principles or Spanish verb tenses now, I did get pretty good grades then, so at least some sort of (very) short-term learning was happening.

As we're anticipating our second child, or Little Sister as she as come to be known around the Warren house, I dug out the pregnancy and early-childhood development books I first read when we were expecting Hannah. I actually remember most of what those said, and rather than re-reading them, I've mostly looked at the pictures. Wonder what that says about memory? During my first pregnancy, I couldn't gather enough information, and read every book and website I could find. This time, I feel like my information is at an adequate level, and instead, I've been reading about pregnancy as a spiritual journey, and spending time pondering what life will be like for Little Sister. (By the way, in a total role reversal, Jonathan as been reading about family dynamics when a second child enters the home and books about sibling rivalry. Guess he'll be the over-informed parent and I'll just drift along in amazed wonder this time.)

With all this in mind, a few days ago, I was reading Hannah her usual bedtime story, a lovely book called Sleep in Peace by Ingrid Hess, which friends gave us shortly after Hannah was born. I've read this book to her every night of her life (with two memorable exceptions) since she was about 4 months old. As we went through the familiar words and pictures, which we both have memorized by sheer rote, my mind wandered, and I thought that maybe Little Sister should have her own special "night-night book," partly to make it unique, and partly to relieve Mama's boredom. Then I remembered a study of infants in their first days of life who were comforted by hearing a book or song which their mother had read aloud each day during her pregnancy. Little Sister's been hearing this book since day one - literally - so I guess she'll probably like being stuck with it, even if I don't.

In a way, this is comforting in itself: one thing I do remember from those "I have a baby, now what?!?" books -as well as from actual experience - is that the first days and weeks outside of the womb are very overwhelming and unfamiliar to a newborn. Isn't it nice that Little Sister already has a familiar story, not to mention the five- or six-time-daily repetition of the Winnie-the-Pooh theme and the constant auto-replay of Dinosaur Blues that occurs while driving in the car. Suddenly, my toddler's obsession with repetition and familiarity doesn't seem so boring and tedious. Now, while I'm pondering Little Sister's future, I'm thinking about how we have already set up some routines and rituals that will welcome her to her new world along with the freshly painted nursery. And all this without even trying!

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