Developmental windows

I’m in the short post-spring break surge to the end of my 2L year, at which point I will be two-thirds done with my law student experience. At the same time, my son is 3-and-something years old and about two-thirds done with his first-five-years-of-life experience. Just like law school is a unique window of immersion and I’m already pacing about what 3L classes will round out my formative legal education, early childhood too is a unique window of immersion. The neural network is being built and the pace of learning is accelerated. These are the years of language acquisition and positive associations with learning. I think such things may continue after the five year mark but—the pressure!—I really want to make the most of developmental windows.

Usually when I pick him up from preschool he asks for “two more minutes,” which I take as a good sign. It’s way better than, for example, “Daaad (sniffle, sniffle) get me outta heeere!” But when I’m in a rush, minutes matter. Other parents relate, and not long ago a dad looked over to my wife and I at pick up when our sons asked for two more minutes for us to read books to them. He advised, “You can’t really say no to that, it would be like promoting illiteracy.” We agreed and decided not to tell our sons, “No reading books, it’s time for you to watch movies on the iphone while we sit in commuter traffic.” Certainly not in these first five years of accelerated development (except for Backyardigans, and Diego).

He’s pretty good with letters already. At a recent meal he picked up the pepper shaker, looked at the top, and said, “Hey this is a P, p-p-p-pepper.” Then he picked up the salt shaker and did the same, “s-s-s-salt,” sounding out the first letter and connecting it to the object. My wife worked hard with him on this skill, with little more than farm animal puzzles and determination. She would point to a cow, say that the animal’s name starts with the letter C, and say “c-c-c-cow!” Then she would point to a goat, say that the animal’s name starts with the letter G, and he would say “g-g-g-sheep!” (But now he knows goats from sheep, and actually corrected me when I called one of his figurines a buffalo: ”Ha-ha-ha, why did you say that Dad? It’s not a buffalo, it’s an African buffalo!”)

IMG_3558IMG_3561Don’t steal my idea just because I’m telling you privately here, but I’ve been working on an activist alphabet for some time now. I’m running out of time with his fifth birthday bearing down on me in less than two years—the pressure! M-M-M-Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia), M-M-M-Mitsuye Endo (Ex parte Endo). I’m all about imparting values through teachable moments. And I’ve thought about sprinkling his children’s book choices with casebooks, given that these are the years of language acquisition and law is its own language. You may have heard the joke: What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American. That’s why I want him to speak English and law while it still will come easily to him. I also don’t want to breach my duty to make choices in his life for him, like making sure he follows in my footsteps and that sort of thing.

OK fine, I’ll try not to be nervous about what my son needs to be internalizing in his current developmental window since he’s got his whole life ahead of him. Hopefully he is learning that his parents value being reflective and intentional about how we make our way through the world. As for me, I imagine as my summer internship approaches (guess what, I was selected for the Rappaport fellowship I mentioned a couple posts back, yesss!) that I’m in for a blitz of learning on the job, and further, a steady acquisition of skills over a lifetime of focused effort. Let’s get to w-w-w-work!


jjcrave posted on March 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Congrats on Rappaport! And nice post.

Brigitte Kahnert posted on March 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

What a wonderful post! Congratulations on your Rappaport Fellowship! You’re g-g-g-great!

Yaminette posted on March 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I appreciate your efforts to teach our child to speak law…but I think social work public health speak comes first. Soon enough he will be able to say e-e-e-epidemiology and list s-s-social welfare policies before he recites his commerce clause. Kiss kiss.