As a first time mom, I wanted to be sure to do right by my baby. I surrounded us with the “best” toys and gadgets, researched the perfect amount of stimulation, provided the most secure, nurturing, connected attention, attempted to get him the proper amount of sleep, fed him the cleanest foods at precisely the right time – basically I tried to do EVERYTHING RIGHT! Sound familiar?? Day after day, I pressured myself to say the right thing, at the exact right moment, introduce this specific toy, item, etc. to develop this critical skill, and to do it all perfectly. Day after day after day. We were overwhelmed; my baby was frustrated, confused, and overstimulated and I was exhausted, desperate, and feeling utterly incompetent. It simply wasn’t sustainable. I was in the deepest, darkest parts of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I knew there had to be a better way. I can’t remember the exact moment that I discovered the Montessori Method – probably some middle of the night Google search when I really should’ve been sleeping – but the moment I read about it, everything clicked. It was like a gentle, soothing touch that reassured me that I was doing too much and that it was not only okay, but necessary to relax, breathe, and consider a different way.
Dr. Maria Montessori’s work first started with children who had special needs, “forgotten” children who had been essentially discarded because of their supposed inability to learn and contribute to society. Dr. Montessori approached each child with respect and believed in their unique abilities. Guess what happened…they THRIVED! Word of Dr. Montessori’s success quickly spread and became a phenomenon. Her work continues to be revolutionary, even in today’s society. It certainly was revolutionary in my development as a mother! Here are just a few of the lessons I learned:
- From birth to 6 years of age, children have what Dr. Montessori calls “absorbent minds.” They literally learn simply by being present, observing life and the world around them. They don’t need fancy gadgets and specific toys. They just need a warm, safe environment (probably your arms!) where they can observe, absorb, and learn. So I stopped buying all.the.things. and watched what my son was naturally drawn toward.
- In tandem with the concept of the absorbent mind, children are not vessels to be filled, but intrinsically curious, unique souls who should be trusted and respected. They have a natural inquisitiveness that we are wise to nurture, with particular preferences for their own unique interests.
- How do we discover their interests? We observe. Yep, we step back, we shut up, we put away all the loud, light up, obnoxious toys, put down our phones and screens and we watch what our child engages with – what they stare at, what they avoid, what they enjoy, what they dislike.
- Then, we follow the child. We stare with them at the leaves moving slowly in the wind, even if “that’s all” we do for a half an hour. We let them feel the grass on their bare feet, watch the rain run down the window, stomp in puddles, and watch the bubble machine. We learn together about dinosaurs, horses, and the intricacies of a working farm. We immerse ourselves in their world rather than fitting them into ours.
- We believe in their capabilities and allow them to investigate, try, and struggle. We offer just as much help as is necessary, but as little as possible. We teach them to trust themselves, to persevere, to believe in themselves.
Montessori gave me permission to slow down, to be present and embrace each moment, to revel in the wonderment that is each new discovery made by my child. It allowed me to embrace a more joyful way of parenting – one built on respect, trusting my child, honoring his natural inquisitiveness, and following his lead. Montessori is magical, in my opinion; magical and miraculous in saving my mental health and helping me to become a better version of myself.
If you’re interested in learning more, here are some of my favorite resources:
- The Montessori Baby by Simone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike
- The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies
- The Montessori Notebook