Monthly Archives: October 2009

Nature vs. nurture

Last night at bath time Una was splashing ever so happily in the bath for half an hour, giggling while playing peekaboo with the towel while Daddy was drying her off, giving us random hugs and just generally being so happy and loving that it got Mark and me thinking “terrible twos, what is that?”. Lo and behold, the last piece of clothing to be put on her was her pajama top when all hell broke loose. Una started screaming, tears streaming down her face, stamping her feet – you know, the definition of a proper tantrum. It took us a few seconds to make out what she was yelling and then when we did, both of us burst into laughter which is one of the biggest parenting sins, laughing when your child is so upset that is. But when you hear what the reason was you might forgive us. All that grief and tears were because the pajama top did not have a cloud on it. Yes, a cloud. We realised quickly that our laughter is not helping so we tried pointing at the pretty flowers on her pajama, the sun, there was even a bird. She wasn’t having any of it. She wanted a cloud.

So back to the title, I think this pretty much solves our nature vs. nurture dilemma. Her genes might be all southern but this kid is so clearly Dutch. Sun – nah, birds – nah, flowers – nah. Give me some clouds.
Not that we have a problem with this, the Dutch have some great characteristics. But heaven help us when she is old enough to become interested in fashion.

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Me? Biased?

Yesterday Una had her regular consultatiebureau (child health centre) check-up. This is where they check your child’s physical and mental development and where they get their vaccinations. I always get anxious around these appointments because some health visitors tend to really follow The Book and if your child is not exactly where The Book says they should be (e.g. sleeping through the night by 12weeks 4days, crawling by 8months 2 weeks, walking by – well, you get the idea) they, well, let’s summarise it a. make you feel bad/worried about it b. give suggestions on how to “fix” the problem and sometimes their advice is not only questionable in its effectiveness but outright ridiculous. I have two great examples that have nothing to do with the post but are so hilarious/disturbing that I can’t miss the opportunity:
1. When a friend of a friend’s baby did not sleep through the night at the age he should have the health visitor told his mum to let the baby cry it out. The mum said she would do it if she could bear to listen to her baby crying. She was told to leave him in the garage so she wouldn’t hear it.
2. Another little boy was apparently too small for his age both height and weight wise. The mum tried telling the health visitor that both her and her husband were petite so the baby should not be expected to be in the 95 percentile. The health visitor seemed to not take this in and told his mum she should make sure she spreads a thicker layer of butter on his bread. The mum got annoyed and tried getting the message across again: “Yes, but we are Italian and we are petite. Look at me.” The health visitor: “I see, you should put a thicker layer of butter on your sandwich too!”.
I just thought that these gems were too good not to share but truth be told this is not the norm, they are normally very helpful and we certainly have never been given advice like the above.

Back to the original story, well, I was curious to hear what they would say about Una’s language development. She chatters all day long, switches easily between English and Serbian when talking to Mark and me and we think she is doing great but we still get strange looks when we tell people that we are raising her trilingually. And I was sure that they would comment on her height/weight (she’s always been in the 95 percentile for both and at some stages off the charts). And as I am sure like most parents of 2 year olds I sometimes dread she would throw a mother of all tantrums right where and when it is really not convenient. So here is the summary of what happened:

Overall impression: Una behaved like an angel throughout the whole ordeal in the waiting room (undressing, measuring weight, length etc). She actually wanted to sit on my lap in the health visitor’s room which given the fact that Sanja was with us was just short of a miracle.

Physical development: The health visitor was happy with Una’s length/weight and she said that she expected her to drop in the weight percentile a bit since it normally happens at this age and Una is eating a lot less than she used to, on same days she barely eats at all. She also told us that Una is developing as she should given her birth weight and that she still could not believe how big she was. I told her I certainly could since I was there while all 4.55kg of her were coming out. She also looked at the charts and told us that Una’s height is that of an average 3 year old child in NL. So even in this tall people land our child is well above average. With my mere 177cm I struggled enough to find a boyfriend with whom I could wear high heels, with her predicted 186cm I just hope she has enough confidence to not care 🙂

Language development: The health visitor said she was very surprised to hear that Una speaks in sentences as at this age most multilingual children are using words only. She then gave Una a little book with pictures of different objects and animals and asked her to recognise them. She first asked in Dutch, Una got all shy and didn’t say a word. She asked her if she should speak in “papa’s taal”, I tried telling her that English would not help either since Una knows the words in Dutch she just did not feel like talking to her. She still tried English but Una was not having any of it. She then asked me to talk to her in Serbian and Una whispered all the answers to me so the lady was happy. She then took a doll and asked Una (in Dutch) to show her where the doll’s body parts were. Una deemed that pointing was not as painful as talking so she showed them all. I was surprised to see that she knew the dutch word for belly (buik). The lady was shocked that Una can count to ten in all three languages (except that in Dutch she starts from 4, she probably got the idea that the Dutch count a bit backwards – they say five and twenty instead of twenty five so she tried implementing a bit of backwardness).

Cognitive development: Una was given one of those wooden boxes with different shape holes and a bunch of different shape blocks to be matched with the holes. Una first gave the lady a “can you see that I am bored?” look, dropped the first few blocks into the right holes straight away and when the lady said “Goed zo meid!” and tried taking the rest away from Una, Una grabbed the remaining blocks and dropped them in with the speed of light. We all laughed, it was just so cute. The health visitor commented that she is very advanced for her age.

So all in all, we seem to have a brilliant, polyglot, supermodel daughter in the making. And if you are rolling your eyes thinking I am biased well that just means you haven’t met Una :).


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