This man is my hero and I figured it was about time I devoted a post to him. He’s a little old Santa Claus of a man, but over the last 50 or so years, he has given children so much more than toys. His name is Glenn Doman and he has literally devoted his life to helping parents with their children, both well children and brain injured children. He comes from a little place you’ve probably never heard of, The Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia (IAHP.org). The reason why I owe him so much is a long story for another post. But maybe if you read this article he wrote, you’ll get an idea of why I admire him so much.
One day in 1984, when Mother was eighty-six years old, I had stopped by the store to pick her up from work.
I had always thought of Mother as a rather tall woman, but as we walked to the car I noticed how I towered over her.
“Mother you must have shrunken a good deal in recent years. How tall were you at your tallest?”
“I was almost five foot tall,” said my mother, looking up and smiling proudly.
I spent a long time thinking about why I had always thought of my tiny mother as being tall.
I guess it was because all of her life she had been a working mother, although she got her first outside job when the last of her kids was twenty.
My mother did it the way all of the other creatures of the earth do it. They spend every moment with their young until they are able to take care of themselves and then the parents do what they want to do. What my mother wanted to do after we were successfully raised was to get an outside job, which she held until it suited her to die at eighty-six.
From the time we were born until we went to school at six, Mother spent virtually every moment of her life with us. But if anyone had suggested to Mother that she wasn’t a working mother, she would have laughed for fifteen minutes.
My mother, like all the other mothers in our middle-class, depression-wracked neighborhood, managed to cook (on an old wood stove), wash the dishes (with water heated on the wood stove), wash her family’s clothing (without a washing machine), mend everything that needed mending (and everything needed mending in those almost no-money days without a sewing machine), tend the coal furnace, put out the ashes, be helpful to the neighbors, take loving care of Dad, and simultaneously teach her three kids to read and do a host of other wonderful things long before any of the three of us saw a teacher.
Am I leading you to imagine that she was a care-worn hag prematurely old? Disabuse yourself of the notion. My mother was a tiny, beautiful woman and what small lines there were in her face were from smiling. I guess Mother wasn’t very smart about raising kids; she thought kids were the greatest invention since sky, rivers, forests, squirrels and singing house wrens. Dad wasn’t any smarter in that regard.
My guess is that Mother and Dad averaged eighteen-hour working days and managed to give their kids tremendous love and respect for the joys of reading and acquiring knowledge before we ever saw a teacher. Both they and we were simple-minded enough to believe we were having the time of our lives.
Is it possible to work like the devil inside (or outside) the home and still find great pleasure in teaching your baby a host of splendid things during those all-important first six years of life? It is!
Working mothers can teach their tiny kids to read and do other splendid things, and thousands of them have and are doing so.
Come to think of it, I don’t believe I ever met a mother who wasn’t a working mother until I was grown up and met some rich people.
All of the mothers (and fathers) I knew then, and the vast majority of parents I know now, are working parents. My estimate would be that they average twelve hours a day of work.
The question is not do they work in the home or out of it.
The question is how many hours a parent works and how many hours does she get to play with her child. (Teaching babies is glorious play.)
Having decided that, the question becomes what do I do with those precious minutes or hours I get to spend with my baby?
What is vital is that those precious times be the most joyous and the most productive moments of all, designed to increase the mutual love and respect between parent and child.
How best to do that?
Despite the handful of professional lamenters who scream so loudly that they manage to sound like everybody (and who gave psychology and education a bad name by insisting that tiny kids are mindless little idiots who shouldn’t be taught to wave bye-bye until they are old enough to be drafted), what tiny kids would rather do than anything else in the world is learn. They want to know about everything in the world and they want to learn about it right now.
By three years of age, when kids are very articulate, they drive most adults to distraction with endless questions. That insatiable curiosity doesn’t begin at three, when he can voice it – it begins at birth, when he can’t.
It never ceases to astonish me that virtually all mothers take one look into their baby’s eyes and know it. It also astonished me that many “child experts” don’t know it. I suspect that the ones who don’t know it have never looked into a baby’s eyes.
This is directed to the mothers who do know it. The question they want the answer to is how best to respond to and to encourage the unquenchable thirst to know they see in their child’s eyes. It is as easy to teach a baby to talk as it is to say “Mommy”. It is as easy to teach a baby to read as it is to show the baby the word “Mommy” (written large and clear).
If a mother has five minutes, four times a day, to teach her baby to read, she can do so.
If a mother has another five minutes, four times a day, she can teach her baby about nature.
If a mother has an hour a day (twelve five-minute sessions) she can teach her baby to read, to know and love nature, and to recognize the great music of the world.
If a mother has all day, every day, she can teach her baby all the wondrous and beautiful things this old world has to offer.
I know a mother who is a physician, a jet pilot, and an astronaut, who finds delight in and time to teach her tiny kid wonderful things. I know a beautiful and world-famous actress who taught her baby to read beautifully – and hundreds of less famous mothers who have done so.
It’s not a question of time. It’s a question of priorities.
Every mother considers her time and chooses her own priorities.
by Glenn Doman,
Founder of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential