It’s learning time.

Learning time

Learning time

C got this little kitchen set for her birthday from my MIL Sidney. It is a talking and singing toy, and unlike all her other talking toys that sound like a grocery store PA system that hasn’t been updated since 1973, you can actually understand what it’s saying, and therefore it doesn’t make me want to abdicate the Throne of Mother whenever she makes it sing the alphabet song thirty-two times in a row. It basically has Bose speakers inside it. Score one for Wee Cee and Bubby.

There is a switch on it where you can toggle between four settings: Learning, Spanish, Music, and Play. The joke’s on the kid though because she is going to learn no matter what setting it’s put on. Shapes, colors, manners, the function of a faucet. All these *critical* skills and concepts are imparted to her via the singing refrigerator even if she only sets it to Music. Muahaha.

When you set it to Learning, the first thing it announces is, “It’s learning time!” Oh good, now I will pay extra close attention. Let me just put my serious learning face on and take out my notepad. What’s that? The cow says “moooo?” Got it. Will that be on the exam?

I am slowly comprehending that Learning Time is all the time. Learning just happens, whether or not I put on some arbitrary “thinking cap.” I never much liked the idea of a thinking cap anyway. When I was a kid, I always felt like when adults told me to put it on, they were saying that I wasn’t trying hard enough to be smart when in fact my mind was going full tilt. I am still not a fan because the idea of a thinking cap implies that ideas and learning only come when you will them to, which isn’t true. My brain is always going whether I want it to or not. Despite my best efforts to read, write, and observe the world with sincere intention and to force inspiration, the learning I do is organic and largely passive. It is within and without me, like heat radiating from me and filling the space surrounding me. Since having C, I have become more attentive and aware of life in general and I am pretty sure I have become a better person. Learning is exhausting and tedious but it just naturally occurs if I open my eyes, relax, and humble myself.

I still force it, though. I click the button onto Learning and impatiently wait for it to just happen. I read read read and I write write write and I pore over the details of a walk down the street, all for the express purpose to get inspired and to be a better, more useful human. Sooner or later, though, I realize that by constantly looking closely at everything contained within this vast sphere and hunting for that one thing that will enlighten me, I have just overwhelmed myself. I get angry that I just made a bowl of cereal and nothing about the experience taught me something. Damn you, bowl of cereal! You were supposed to nourish me and inspire me! A strongly-worded letter to General Mills ensues, and all the eloquence I could have channeled into writing something more useful is then spent. Sometimes I feel like my good words are as limited as a carton of milk. They are quantifiable and I can run out of them, and making them come back is far more complicated than just walking down to the store to get more.

But then it occurs to me without me even forcing it that I cannot be inspired by ALL the things. You cannot focus on everything. My eyeballs and my brain are not equipped for that kind of work. I can barely maintain my Twitter account. And just like that, the bowl of cereal tricked me into learning, right when I laid off of it.

This is basically the story of my life: getting pwned by a bowl of cereal. Being tricked into understanding. It’s reassuring that I can rely somewhat consistently on these little serendipitous distractions to teach me something, all while I was focused on learning something more “substantial” from a book or a moment of massively concerted thought.

I am at play, toggling up and down the dial of a baby toy. Miraculously, I make sense of some of it.

37 comments

  1. Stirring up some soup that’s full of ABCs… would you like to try some? First you should say please! Thank you!
    You’ll know the songs on there quite quickly. It’s inevitable. Enjoy!

    1. MMM-MMM something smells yummy! Time to put something in my tummy!

      I have gone from quoting Nirvana lyrics to toy lyrics. A proud day, it is.

      1. It’s one of those things that if you didn’t realize they actually were learning with it, you’d want to toss it out the front door… and it only lives at my parents’ house.

  2. I hate the idea of a thinking cap, too! I heard it so much while I was growing up that I started to believe my brain didn’t work until I fastened the imaginary thinking cap chin strap.
    Because I’m a perpetual student I’m also a perpetual teacher. The two go hand in hand. I’m collecting knowledge only to impart it. It’s like sharing time. I was making my own flash cards when I was six and forcing my baby sister to learn the words. Hahaha! But I have to say, my sister ended up being wicked smart. She was reading Le Miserable while she was in Middle school. she completely passed me by- I was still reading Dick and Jane type stuff. Haha!

    1. I was always trying to teach my brother stuff too! I had a walk-in closet in addition to a regular closet in my room (my room was bomb) and I set it up like a little classroom and tried to teach him the parts of speech when he was in preschool. I don’t think my lessons stuck, but what a great memory. Our siblings are so lucky to have us. We taught them everything they know, Lisa ;D

  3. Motherhood does inspire learning. I can identify construction vehicles now.

    1. This is CRITICAL information.

  4. Cee is going to be a genius with strong comedic gifts. I’m not kidding. I don’t think the little Cee apple fell far from the mommy tree. ;)

    1. Ha! I hope so. She’s been leaning on the sofa like The Fonz a lot lately. She cracks me up.

  5. Your post is inspiring. ;-)

    1. Thank you! ;D

  6. twindaddy · · Reply

    “This is basically the story of my life: getting pwned by a bowl of cereal.”

    That sentence gave me quite a good laugh. There’s always something to learn if your mind is open to it. You don’t have to force it. Just sit back and let it come to you.

    1. You can imagine how much I learn when I eat omelettes or French toast for breakfast. Nobel Prize over here.

      1. twindaddy · · Reply

        I can only imagine what happens what you have some sort of sophisticated food.

  7. My little C has that as well. She and her short attention span enjoy it for a few 3-4 min sessions a day. She’s had it sine Christmas and I’m not annoyed yet. I’d say that’s quite a credit to fisher price… Or whoever made it. Love this post! Being a teacher, I’ve studied the brain some, and its quite a fascinating thing.

    1. It really is. What do you teach? I used to teach kindergarten.

      1. I used to teach 6th grade. My mom is kindergarten though, and I totally believe god has a special mansion for you crazies in heaven.

  8. Wonderful post!

    Yes, I have found motherhood so far to be incredibly educational: I have learned about myself, about human development, about my husband, about relaxing into change, about LOVE (okay tearing up here). The synapses are definitely firing! Thank you! :)

    1. The sheer quantity of things we learn when we become parents is astronomical! It’s like a part of our brains that had yet to be used just wakes up after a long hibernation. It’s really awesome!

  9. I totally know what you mean. When I was taking care of the little one, the whole world was a gigantic storybook to him. Everything was interesting, everything was new. Pretty amazing.

    1. That’s what I love about small humans. The line between play and learning doesn’t even exist yet for them.

      1. I don’t think the line should even exist?? Amiright????

  10. As a teacher in a former life, I am a big advocate of life-long learning. At the same time, I think we live in a day and age where sometimes we are overwhelmed by information. There are moments when I find myself wishing I could unlearn something because of the doubt or anxiety it brings into my life. In a sense, stupidity is bliss. Every moment doesn’t have to be teachable. So that is precisely the moment I turn on Real Housewives. Ahhh…but maybe that IS the lesson, after all. Damn it. Still learning. I was hoping not to think too much today.

    1. YES! I think you are the only person who has really commented on that, which is exactly what I guess I was trying to say in this post. Falsely manufacturing teachable moments throughout the day is exhausting and it almost tries to answer a question before it’s even asked. Sometimes we just need trash TV/ trash reading to prompt our minds in a direction it wouldn’t go on its own.

      1. I love you for justifying the need to watch crap tv. Also, I think we need to remind ourselves that sometimes our kids don’t need us to teach them all the time. They are pretty good at learning things all on their own. When my oldest was little, I felt the pressure a lot like you do in this post. I needed to educate myself all the time so I could educate her and be an ever-flowing font of knowledge for all of life’s tough questions. But as most things with parenting go, you start to chill as they get older…as the next kid comes along…as there is no denying that you are mostly just along for the ride. At least that is how it has been for me. And it seems you are already ahead of the curve on this one.

  11. I liked this post so much I read it twice. Wisdom in a bowl of Cheerios. Great writing!

    1. Thanks, Tania! Thank you for reading it twice. This post is a little heavier than I usually get so thanks for bearing with me while I tease out some meaning in a bowl of cereal (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, BTW).

  12. I also think it’s funny that there’s a concept like “learning time”. Human brains are so plastic and our best evolutionary advantage is that we can adapt to new conditions all the time. How did we ever get it in our heads that we’re only being educated at school? And children learn from everything all the time; a point clearly made to me when one of my kids perfectly recites a foul word, in context to a grocery store clerk or similar.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how kids are just constantly learning, whether we try to get them to or not? C has just gotten to the point where she really, really understands a lot of what we’re saying. The proverbial light switch went off in her head seemingly overnight. It’s kind of funny that I was stressing about not spending “enough” time with her reviewing the names of her facial features, when a couple days ago I said something like “Bob knows Mary” to my husband and she pointed right at her nose.

  13. I hate thinking caps. Frankly, I just hate when people “wear” different hats to describe the different roles they’re taking on. Learning has a way of sneaking up on you.

    1. I hate that idea too. It always makes me think of people walking around with hats stacked up on top of each other on their heads. Then they just look like lunatics who can’t decide which one they wanted so they chose them all. Ugh, make up your mind, crazy multiple hat wearing person.

      1. Yes! I remember once at my old job my boss was talking about putting on her “auditor hart,” and I just imagined the mad hatter’s hat with a bunch of numbers on it. The hats take my mind to a very weird place.

  14. A thinking cap! As if! I’ve always hated that expression…teacher-ese bugs the crap out of me. I don’t have enough brain cells to warrant a cap anyway.

    1. Me too. I always died a little inside when I caught myself using teacherese when I was teaching, like when I called out “Boys and girls!” Duh, boys and girls. What else is there?

  15. That sounds like a great toy. I need to brush up on my Spanish so maybe I should invest in one? I like learning, but I feel like I know pretty much everything by now…life is rough.

  16. Jean Piaget would make you his clinical assistant. Just can’t shut off the brain factor! Makes you wonder how much untapped potential we have…

  17. Oh the memories, your posts bring back! When my two oldest were little, Barnie was just coming out… oh how that dinosaur made me crazy. However, it seemed better than Raffie, who had driven us to near insanity. The toys, they get smarter and smarter, they just keep upping the ante. In the meantime, a drawer full of Tupperware, ice cubes, a plain old ball, reading with mommy or daddy, still make for great learning time too! BTW: do you read Vivian Kirkland’s blog. She has such brilliant ideas, it almost (ok, not really) makes me want to have another! She is an awesome lady, who frequently posts some very clever ideas. http://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/perfect-picture-book-friday-pirate-girl/

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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