First, let me quote from a news report:
Researchers studied the effects of fatherhood on the brain of male Marmosets, small tree-dwelling monkeys that spend 70 percent of their time caring for newborns.
The result of all this baby time, according to new research by Princeton University psychologist Yevgenia Kozorovitskiy and her colleagues, is that the nurturing actually boosts the mental activity of the male Marmosets, reported the online edition of Popular Science magazine. [Telugu Portal]
The study isn’t directly related to humans, according to Kozorovitskiy. Ummm, okay. But does the principle apply? In theory, at least. Not just to fathers but to mothers as well. No doubt that parenthood is a tremendous emotional experience. Rewarding or disastrous, depending on how one takes it on. But is it a mentally or intellectually rewarding experience? Does it make one smarter?
I’ve heard the argument too often. Mothers complaining that being in the house 24/7 caring for an infant child results in some kind of intellectual stagnation with no adult to talk and discuss with. I suppose this is especially true for those with active careers prior to motherhood. And I know a number of female bloggers who started their blogs for precisely that reason. They craved intellectual interaction and blogging filled that need.
Perhaps, it’s a matter of definition and appreciation. For sure, learning about one’s child is not the same as learning lessons, say, in the university. An infant may be no good for purposes of political debate. But, see, just like everything in life, parenthood is an experience. And we all learn from experience — any experience, whether good or bad, whether simple or complex — unless we consciously disregard the experience, in which case it may become nothing but a passing thing. In that context, therefore, nurturing infants can be a mentally and intellectually enriching experience.
I can’t even say that only the experience with the firstborn can be the source of knowledge. Some may claim that it is always easier with a second, a third, etc. child because a parent has already learned from the first. But is it, really? Every child is different. Every child, including infants, reacts differently to different stimuli. So, caring for an infant, whether he is a firstborn or otherwise can mean learning new things.
And the opportunity for a parent’s intellectual growth progresses as a child grows older. With my kids, especially my firstborn, the moment she started talking and asking questions, I was obliged to reassess just how much I really knew about things I always claimed I knew like the back of my hand.
If you’ve seen the Disney film “The Kid”, there was a part there when the little boy asked his older alter ego (played by Bruce Willis) why the moon was orange. I mean, most adults would know that the moon looks differently on different nights and on different parts of the month, and that its color appears different from time to time, but do we know why? See, kids ask funny questions. And, sometimes, their questions tell us the glaring truth that we really don’t know much after all.
Some parents dismiss such questions with indifference. Just because is a common answer. I suspect that it is more out of irritation at being told, innocently and indirectly, that he is an ignoramus about some things. But the conscientious parent will take the time to think of the correct answers and explain to the child in terms that he will understand. As the child explores his world, then, the parent can learn along with him.
Does the opportunity to learn with one’s child stop when the curiosity stage is over like when a child starts school? Okay, I’ll give you an example. My daughters are in second and first year high school, respectively. A few weeks ago, my younger daughter needed to do an essay for her Biology class. She had done her research but the materials were too complex for her to really understand. She came to me and asked me to help her.
“What about?” I asked.
She said, “The human genome project.”
“The what?” Okay, the way I said it may have been more like “The huwaaaaat????” You get the drift. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what she was talking about.
But I didn’t send her out of the room with a dismissive, “Write your essay the way you understood what you read.” I read what she had on the human genome project. I looked for more sources and cross referenced terms I did not understand. Then, I sat down with her and we discussed. I’m sure we didn’t understand all of it completely but we learned. Would I have learned about the human genome project had it not been for my daughter?
Is staying at home to raise the kids nakaka-bobo? LOL Far from it. Far, far from it.