Journalists across the country carefully pushed back their frosted tips and dove into this subject, producing article after article about how goddamn important these years are to a child's eventual intelligence. Do something wrong during this crucial early period, the media warned -- don't stimulate your baby enough, stimulate him too much, laugh too hard when he farts -- and your kid might end up like Slow Cousin Pete, who is still trying to get his raccoon-hat business going at age 40.
The idea was so successful that its influence on educational policy continues to this day. With this cultural background screaming at everyone, it's no wonder parents lash out at each other or devolve into smug bastards. But the thing is ...
Most Of That Newer Information Is Bullshit
Talk to neuroscientists today and they'll tell you that most of the "first three years" panic was never based on real science. That burst of synapse growth in young children? It's pretty much a thing that happens on its own and doesn't necessarily need to be egged on by parents showing a kid barnyard animal flashcards until their fingers are bleeding with paper cuts. It turns out that a depressingly large amount of IQ is based on genetics and other factors largely outside the control of the average parent. So don't worry; the reason your Cousin Pete is stuck making hats out of raccoons is probably not because his mother didn't buy him enough brightly colored toys at 6 months.
It might have been all the meth.
This isn't to say that we should be ignoring our children or keeping them in boxes (or neglecting micronutrients), but chances are we're doing better than we think we are. And if you stop and think about it for a minute, most of the stuff modern American parents are obsessing about is kind of ridiculous. We live in the richest, most successful society the planet has ever produced. Our kids don't have to worry about war, malaria, shag carpets, or any of the myriad horrors that haunt humanity's past. Anyone with the time, literacy, and technology to look up parenting advice on the Internet is so extraordinarily privileged they should be on the floor right now weeping in thankfulness that they weren't born a peasant in 12th-century France, not beating themselves up about whether to swaddle.
But if you're an anxious person, like me, chances are you can't help but get stressed anyway. And that's why I've sworn off the Internet altogether and am now going to raise my children using only the advice of retro advertisements.
Drink up, kids!
C. Coville hopes that people will donate to childhood-improving nutritional programs and has a far less childhood-improving Twitter here.
The Internet is great for instructional videos on, say, tying a tie. If you ask it how to raise your kids, however, it'll tell you to make them run laps around the grocery store, as seen in 7 Insane Parenting Tips Real People Thought Were A Good Idea. Unfortunately, you're going to mess up as a parent no matter what. See why in 5 Ways Parenting Turns You Into A Dumbass.
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