Q. "My husband and I are fascinated by our Debbie, who is 6 1/2 months old. We play with her, cuddle her and enjoy her antics in the playpen and the walker now.
"We are in our mid-30s and don't know if we can have another child -- with me not working now -- so we know we are doting lots of times but she's so adorable.
"Are we too involved? Is there too little peer socialization now?
"The lack of baby sitters is also a factor in our household, as we are 'homebodies.' Grandparents sit for us in the early evening or daytime so we can go on a shopping spree and that's about all we need.
"Can you give us a pep talk?"
A. You're doing just fine.
You can spoil an older child with too many privileges or clothes or toys or money or by giving a child -- of any age -- attention when she's bad instead of good.
But there is no way that love can spoil a child. It's not like adding a cup of sugar to a recipe that calls for a teaspoon.
Your child had had every need attended to for the first nine months of her life: It made her born to trust. It's the love and care she gets in her first year that lets her keep that trust and she gets it best from doting parents, doting grandparents and any other doters she can find. Playmates are nice but not essential this year, although they are a good way for you to meet other parents.
Homebodies or not, you and your husband need to build a reservoir of friends, because adorable Debbie will be a handful in another yet. At that stage you'll want to socialize with people your own age -- just as she will want friends too -- and this is the time to find them. A baby-sitting cooperative or a neighborhood organization is usually a parent's best source.
What your daughter may need is more freedom to move around.
Now is the time to block the stairs with a gate and plug the empty electrical sockets with blanks; to pack your books in the bookcase too tightly to her to pull them out; to put your breakables and your poisons out of reach for the next few years and your wastebaskets out of reach when she's awake. These are the precautions that let you put your baby on a blanket on the floor, so she can scooch as far as she can on her own.
A playpen or a walker is all right for brief periods -- no more than a half hour at a time -- but only because they give you a respite.
A child is not only born to trust; she's born to challenge too.
Q. "Our child, a boy 21 months old, is exposed to three languages at home.
"My wife and I speak to him in our respective (and different) Indian languages and he hears English frequently as it is the only language my wife and I have in common.
"I wonder if our present attempts at making him trilingual may not confuse him greatly.
"We could concentrate on English exclusively -- which he will have in playgroups and nursery school -- and then introduce the Indian languages in later childhood, but this might reduce the incentive for him to learn those languages.
"I should add that he expresses himself in one-word sentences which are often, but not always, in the language the other person usually uses."
A. Clearly three languages at once havenht confused your child yet and it's doubtful that they could.
In Europe, where foreign borders are much closer, children often grow up knowing more than one language and if anything, it is helpful. A child has many more circuits in his brain than he could program and each extra one he puts into use will make it easier for him to process information later.
Study after study shows that the child who learns another language before the age of 8 -- and certainly before 12 -- is able to learn any foreign language more easily later. This seems to be especially true if the child learns to read the language.
It's talking to the psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, the complicated sentence structure a child hears when he's quite young helps him get ready for reading.
Speaking three languages has other advantages for your child.
When you and your wife talk to him in the special bonds each parent has the child. It will be a private way to keep in touch, even though he will grow up in an English-speaking culuture.
A child only gets upset by extra knowledge if his parents are trying to show him off and grab a little reflected glory. Since that's not your attitude, your son should thrive when you talk to him. Love comes through in any language.