Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Talk Talk

Thanks, Mrs. Rodius, for blogging for me yesterday. I can't remember why in the hell I thought blogging every single day would be a good idea, but I really appreciate the tag team action. It's another item on the list of reasons why I don't deserve you. In return, I will now proceed to engage in what could conceivably be construed as teasing you. Rest assured it's all in the name of healthy academic discourse that hopefully makes people think. (Speaking of which, thanks Tracey. I hardly think of myself as "the thinking man's" anything, but I appreciate the nod. And I appreciate the tag more than usual because God knows I need the material. I'll be taking advantage of it tomorrow, I think.)

Rebel Dad talked about this Daily Mail article that references a study that says (which a bunch of qualifiers on it) that dads may not prepare their sons academically as well as moms because they don't provide "the same degree of cognitive stimulation..." It's sons, and it's toddlers, and it's entry-level school exams, and it's dads who spend 15 hours per week or more, etc. etc. etc., but that's what it boils down to.

When I mentioned it to Mrs. Rodius, she predicted my reaction would be to call "bullshit" on the study, because I work pretty hard at speaking to, singing to, signing to, playing with, and otherwise stimulating young Thumper, cognitively and otherwise. But honestly, when I read Rebel Dad's reaction, I thought to myself, "I could buy that." I guess it depends on how "cognitive stimulation" is defined. If it's talking, I'm leagues behind Mrs. Rodius.

Mrs. Rodius thinks aloud. It took me awhile to figure out that while it appears that she is talking to me, she is quite frequently talking to herself. She verbalizes her internal monologue because it helps her think. It used to flummox me when she would say things like, "I'm thinking that option A is best." And I would say, "I agree. Let's go with option A." And then she would proceed to go through all of the benefits of option A and all of the detriments of option B as if I had just said, "Option A? Hell no! What on earth would make you think that option A is best?" So I would say things like, "You know I just agreed with you, right?" And she would point out that she's not trying to convince me, she's just going over it again verbally to reassure herself that option A really is the best. The other day, I made the mistake of saying to her, when she caught me not quite paying attention while she talked, "You're not talking to me; you're talking to yourself. It doesn't matter if I'm listening." Because while that may be kind of a little bit true, clearly there are some things that definitely don't need to be said out loud.

And it's not just her. Our nephew is the only child of a single mother, and she's a mother who talks. A lot. Even Mrs. Rodius gets off the phone with her saying, "Man, she talks a lot." So she always, from the day the nephew was born, talked and talked and talked to him. And he grew into a toddler who developed excellent verbal skills very early. Now that he's a teenager, he doesn't talk so much, but that's a different story.

And I've seen SWSIL ("Social Worker Sister-in-Law") play with Thumper, and she talks and talks, and makes funny voices. I understand that each individual is different, but I could totally see how this could fall down gender lines. If "cognitive stimulation" consists largely of a running monologue, I readily admit I can't keep up with the women folk. The women folk, they likes to talk. Sometimes, Thumper and I just like to look and think quietly to ourselves. Hopefully that doesn't doom him to the short bus.


Anonymous said...

Okay, the last line made me snort my coffee. In a good way.

You raise some excellent points about the typical verbosity of female parents and male parents (hell, not just parents, women and men in general!) It makes sense to me that women provide more social stimulation for their children than men (as a rule, of course). As long as we're making sweeping generalizations, I would venture to guess that males provide more physical stimulation, but we don't see studies saying that SAHMs are dooming their children to mediocre scores on the National Fitness Test.

At any rate, what pisses me off about this study is that I don't think, however valid, data that goes against Dads spending more time with their children, male or female, can come to any good. With the "newer generations" of parents, we are seeing more attentive and involved fathers...but all the studies I've seen still show that fathers are still a distant second to mothers in the caretaking of children. So to publish a study that gives validity or credibility to that social trend makes me cringe.

Jennie said...

My work mentor and I joke that when I chat with him at work, I use up all his words for the day and he's all talked out by the time he gets home. I think that 12,000/24,000 words per day thing is perfectly plausible. I was nodding at this whole post - if cognitive stimulation is all being talked to, then it's waaaaay easier for wimmins to fill that order.

anniemcq said...

It's so funny - Tracey took all the words right out of my mouth about this study. What is the point of it, I wonder?

Thumper is so lucky that he has you two for parents - he'll be ready for anything. He'll be ahead of the game verbally and intellectually, he'll be sensitive and kind, AND he'll have that dimple. He'll have talents that both of you will stand in awe of - I can see it in his eyes. He's one lucky kid.

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