Now that Shabbat starts later, and my husband and I have a car, I have been taking my little girl to the Village Learning Place in Baltimore where we participate in the Friday morning “Mother Goose on the Loose” story time. Most of the kids there are at least a year older than she is, if not more, and I think I might be the youngest parent there (though the nannies are more around my age).
Why do I go? Ziva is only 7 months old, so her participation in the activities is very limited, and everything that gets handed out becomes an exploration in taste. Time to ring the bells? Straight into her mouth. Time to wave scarves around? Hers is covered in slobber. She can’t march in a circle but when I carry her around, her squeals of delight and gigantic grin let me know that she’s definitely benefitting from the experience.
As a librarian, I learned over and over the importance of early literacy. Nursery rhymes help teach your kids phonological awareness and language. Music helps their brains develop, and modeling behavior teaches them learned behaviors. It killed me for the first few months of her life that between my work schedule and not having a car, we couldn’t get to the library for story programs. I really felt like I was failing her as a parent and as a librarian.
There’s more to it, though. The person who conducts the “Mother Goose on the Loose” hour is a friend who I worked with at Port Discovery Children’s museum when I first finished grad school. A non-Jewish, gay man, he’s probably as different from most of the people Ziva will regularly encounter here in Pikesville, Maryland as possible. Same with all of the kids at this “Mother Goose on the Loose” time. She’s not likely to encounter River or Laser on the playground by our apartment on Shabbat. I want my daughter to know that we live in a world with lots of different kinds of people and it’s good to be friends, or at least friendly, with as many as she can.
As I sit here and think about it, I want my daughter to be an even better person than I am (and I’m by no means perfect) and the only way I can do that is by showing her how to do it. We’re doing pretty well so far with the reading and nursery rhymes. Our next tasks are definitely learning to knit, spin, and cook. Maybe one day soon her tastes will expand beyond the bells and scarves.