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Learning Laboratory: Babies

Teaching young children about babies

One of the greatest disadvantages I see in modern-day childhood is that children are often exposed only to a limited set of adults along with children roughly their own age. I think there is a great deal to learn from mixed-age and mixed-generation interactions. I also think that there is a special benefit for children who get to spend time with babies. After all, exposure to babies in the UK has been shown to reduce bullying and aggression in schools. Babies are excellent teachers of patience, love, and acceptance.

We don’t have a baby in our house at the moment, so the kids and I especially love it when friends with babies come to visit. Johnny especially adores babies – I have seen him spend hours building towers, just so that a 9-month-old baby can knock them down over and over. My kids don’t typically get to hold the babies who visit, but baby R’s mom is a good friend, and she offered them the chance to hold him gently with help.

Parenting came easily to me, in part because I had six younger siblings – the youngest arriving shortly before my fifteenth birthday. Three older siblings, too. I still face parenting challenges. But I had spent years holding and caring for babies before I held my own, and a large family one phone call (and, in a couple cases, a car ride) away. I have it easy.

I remember watching a dear friend struggle to adapt to motherhood. Her baby was the first infant she had ever held, and she was recovering from an extraordinarily difficult delivery. She persevered, and is a spectacular mother. I can’t help but wonder how much easier her journey would have been if she had entered motherhood knowing that newborns don’t sleep and wake on demand, familiar with the feel of a baby in her arms. What if, instead of resorting to a few trusted friends and medical doctors for help, she had been surrounded by a village of helpers?

What were your first weeks as a parent like? Did you feel prepared when you held a child of your own for the first time?

learning laboratory at mama smiles

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

18 thoughts on “Learning Laboratory: Babies”

  1. I similarly have a sister 14 years younger than I am, although not as many in-between as you! I agree that growing up with a baby made motherhood much more familiar.

  2. I actually never had any experience with babies or children until I had Hanna. Unreal to think back on that now, and no, I didn’t feel prepared and it was a struggle for some time. You are so blessed to have all of your siblings. I bet that was so much fun.

    I have two close friends who recently had babies and it’s been wonderful to hold them– a little too wonderful :-). So sweet though.

  3. Oh, I can’t tell you how much I agree with this. I think it’s even more than just young adults and children being away from babies, although that is certainly part of it. We are so obsessed with age segregation–children are separated by year in school, the elderly live in homes with only the elderly, and so on. It’s really a shame and a big issue for me. I think we’ve lost so much in our stray from traditional cultures, one part of which is this bizarre separation by age. I, too, try my hardest to have my kids spend time with people of all ages, babies included.

  4. I definitely had a lot to learn. I still do, really. I didn’t have a lot of exposure to babies or children, but my instincts help guide me, and I read a lot. I still wish that there was a perfect, magical formula for this mom thing. Something cut and dry and easy to figure out. Great post. I love the picture. I’m sure they were excited and proud!

  5. Kate @ Puddles and Gumboots

    This is a lovely post, I definitely think the changes to society has been to the detriment of families, “the whole it takes a village to raise a child” concept

  6. What a cute pic. I also grew up with lots of families and lots of babies around. My cousin is expecting and I can’t wait for another baby in the family!

  7. I love that picture.

    My mother was always watching cousins and other children, so I had some exposure, but I read a lot too – that helped. I would love to have all of those siblings like you; I only have one sister. Do you plan on having a large family?

  8. That’s a lovely picture and Johnny is so sweet to build towers for the baby to knock down. Sunnyboy too loves to play with younger (and older!) children and always likes to spend time with a baby when he gets a chance, and it melts my heart to hear him talking to my tummy now. :)

  9. We’re odd in that we actually see more multi-age families than necessarily kids their own age. My kids best friends are all a couple of years older than them, which will probably lead to problems in a few years.

    I love seeing friends with new babies because it is such a great learning experience.

  10. Being a single child I didn’t have much exposure to babies or children before my own. But I was reading a lot during my pregnancy, so I was prepared (in theory, at least). I was very lucky too with an easy baby and a husband who stayed at home :)

  11. I researched my way into motherhood, with nine months to read extensively on the subject. Fortunately I had taken first aid classes and had some babysitting experience as a teenager. It was also extremely helpful that our midwife gave us a list of things to check if baby was crying!

    Love it that Johnny will build and re-build block towers for a baby to knock over!

  12. Such a sweet photo! I tried to prepare myself as much as possible by reading books and trying to think of the reality of a baby rather than an unreal ideal. None of my close friends had babies yet, so I think this really helped me. I was totally blessed with a very easy first baby!

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