My son was only a few weeks old when people started calling him “smart.” I don’t say this to complain, or as a thinly veiled #humblebrag. I’m simply calling out how early in our society people start to value intelligence.
The funny thing is, when our babies are very little, intelligence has very little to do with scoring high on any kind of test.
We commend infants for simple things like eye contact and regular babbling. We praise their ability to track objects with their eyes and reach for new toys.
“He’s so smart!” we coo when little ones start to respond to simple requests to “kiss” or “throw.”
And we marvel at their curiosity as they find excitement all around them, from unraveling a roll of toilet paper, to a playful game of hide and seek, to the squishy feeling of food in their hair. (Sidenote: So. Messy.)
All that curiosity is just so magical to witness.
But, just a few quick years later, something changes. As kids enter school, test scores and curriculums crowd out creativity and curiosity. We value kids being “smart” and getting the “right” answers instead of encouraging them them to find new ways to solve problems. We go from marveling as our baby “finds” his right hand, to worrying about getting him into the “right” schools.
In the struggle to quantify progress, we often lose sight of what really matters: a love of learning, and a lifelong curious spirit—one that is so naturally evident in the inherent sense of wonder and discovery that infants and toddlers possess.
So my promise for my sweet child is this—
I will always do my best to foster your energy and curiosity.
I want you to appreciate the world around you. From taking in the softness of our dog’s fur to noticing the colors of the leaves in the fall, there are so many things I’m getting to rediscover through your fresh eyes. I hope these small miracles always feel so brand new to you and inspire you to see what other treasures our world holds. Fill your mind with every wonder, and I know you’ll have a lifelong love of learning.
I want you to learn through play. Whether it’s a toy that introduces you to a new world of musical classics or a paint set that inspires you to create new colors, I want you to always associate learning with adventure. Every moment holds a precious opportunity to let your knowledge expand and your understanding deepen (sometimes without even having the leave our living room!), so we will play with toys that foster your insatiable curiosity.
I want you to embrace friendships with people unlike yourself. Whether they had different upbringings, different cultures, or simply different tastes in what they like on pizza, never let your open-heartedness for other people dampen. The best way to learn new things is to experience them first hand, and you will learn so much from friends who have seen things you haven’t. I’ll do my part by setting the example, and hopefully we’ll both become better people in the process.
I want you to be prepared to succeed in our changing world. The world seems to be moving faster and faster. For now, I want to impart to you the strengths of a confident adventurer curious about everything you encounter. Sometimes that will mean listening to music from around the world so you can appreciate different styles — and give you a whole new beat to boogie to! Other times, it will mean creating our own art studio in the living room so you can express the creative little person you’re rapidly becoming. (I won’t even mind the mess, promise!)
The truth is, not even I know the limits of your potential.
One thing I do know, though, is that you’re going to blow us all away.
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