Message in a Bottle
Babies on the Brain

Brain Rules for BabyIt’s time for me to be honest and admit that I’m just about 18 weeks pregnant with twins. As much as I’m trying not to do this, the truth is, the pregnancy and baby books are piling up on my nightstand. I know I should be reading them, but as you know, I’ll pick up fiction any day over those books if given the choice. So don’t worry, as the due date in September looms, I pledge not to devolve into an obsessive focus on all books about babies. I’m telling you this now so if it gets to be a problem, you can protest loud and clear.

This week, however, I’m going to indulge myself with one particular book, Brain Rules for Baby by local author John Medina. I’ve been reading this one with particular care after an intriguing dinner conversation with friends (who are also expecting). As I chowed down on a huge slice of chocolate cake, the husband casually drops this mood killer: “Hey, did you know that the foods you eat during the later part of your pregnancy will influence your babies’ taste buds for the rest of their lives?”

I stopped cold with chocolate smeared across my upper lip. “So you’re saying that if I eat a lot of chocolate that’s what my kids will want to eat? Who says?”

"All I’m saying is you might want to focus more on the vegetables," he replied. "I’m reading this fascinating book. It’s based on scientific research and explains a lot about early formative experiences."

The book he meant, of course, was Brain Rules for Baby, which my husband decided belonged on our must-read list. I suspect he thought it would teach me all the things I should be doing to make sure our kids come out okay in the long-run.

But the joke is on him, although he doesn’t know it yet since I read the book first. Not only does Brain Rules for Baby frighten pregnant women out of eating ice cream sundaes, it also offers a compelling case for why men should do more housework. A big part of the first section of the book explains how seriously a baby’s arrival can damage the quality of a marriage. Let me warn you now, some of the research is downright depressing and scary. That said, it’s also informative. For all the people who are telling me that playing classical music for my stomach will make these kids smarter, there is no scientific evidence that’s true.

One great tip that resonated with me was that we should praise our kids for effort rather than achievement. If we can teach them how to persevere at tough things, they will be more successful both in school and in life. It’s an important distinction, because it shows you recognize and respect inner drive more than an “A” on a report card. And if they know that’s what valued, they will put more of their energy into working hard rather than freaking out if they don’t get the grade they think you expect.

That’s also a great tip for raising good readers (which, as you can imagine, is an essential on my list). Smart readers know how to persevere and can push through a 500 page books even if it takes effort. A kid who doesn’t know how to do that will never have the patience or see the reward in putting in that kind of energy. So the minute my kids read the first sentence of a book all on their own, I plan to throw them a parade.

—Miriam

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