Parenting: A Spectator Sport?

24 Jun

You probably knew that several decades ago swaddling babies was common practice.  But did you know that parents strapped babies’ legs to prevent them from growing crooked?  Can you imagine that the ligament under a child’s tongue was split to ensure he would eventually speak?  Babies wore snug caps, not as protection from the sun, but to prevent the ears from protruding.  And did you know that if you were trying to be a good mother 100 years ago, you were expected to pinch and stroke your baby’s nose to ensure it grew long and sharp?

We now know that none of these practices are necessary, and many are harmful.  We know too that if we let Nature run its course, our babies will grow up with straight legs, the ability to speak, and ears and noses that respond to genes and not to forceful coaxing.  Nature, the powerful energy that created a baby inside a mother’s womb for nine months, continues to guide the child’s development once he comes in contact with the outside world.

Parents who are aware of this will gladly echo Maria Montessori’s words in The Advanced Montessori Method: “What a relief to say: ‘Nature will think of that.  I will leave my baby free, and watch him grow in beauty; I will be a quiescent spectator of the miracle.'”

While we’ve made great leaps in the understanding of a child’s physical development, we still feel the need to swaddle, strap, dissect and stroke his intellectual and emotional needs.  We walk around carrying this fictitious burden, and we forget that Nature is asking us – begging us – to trust her ageless wisdom.

If given freedom, children will learn because they are driven to do so, just as they are driven to grow.  I can’t convince you of that, nobody can.  I can only invite you to step back and watch Nature at work.  Remove yourself from your child’s path for thirty minutes and be a “spectator of the miracle”.

Woe to us, when we believe ourselves responsible for matters that do not concern us, and delude ourselves with the idea that we are perfecting things that will perfect themselves quite independently of us!

— Maria Montessori, The Advanced Montessori Method


7 Responses to “Parenting: A Spectator Sport?”

  1. Cynthia June 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    Thanks. Pilar. That is so timely and well written that I’m not gonig to post this week. I’m just going to tell everyone to come here and read this!

  2. Victoria Denyer June 25, 2010 at 8:42 am #

    Hi Pilar,

    I totally agree with most of your comments, however I’d like to make one point about cutting the frenulum (under the tongue)…whilst it doesn’t help with speech, it does help with breasfeeding. Both my sons had tongue ties that caused me a lot of pain with feeding them, the first wasn’t cut, I fed for 5 weeks, the second I fought for 6 weeks to get cut, and I’m still feeding him at 20 months…so in some cases it actually does really help the child (though not with speech, my eldest certainly has no worries in that department!).

    Love your blog and wish you well with your wedding and new studies…I’m training as a Montessori teacher now, change of career at age 37 and loving it!

    All the best,


  3. Marcy June 28, 2010 at 4:34 am #

    I try to remind myself of this often, along with one of my favorite Montessori quotes: “follow the child.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the parenting world of wanting to buy all the coolest toys for your kids, put them in the right classes, do X or Y to help “advance” their development (it really is amazing how deeply these societal pressures can get to you, even when you KNOW better!). Personally, some of my favorite times as a parent are when my kid is playing on his own, developing his own little narrative, and I can just sit and watch in amazement at the things he comes up with. He’s just starting into developing his own imaginative play, and it is FASCINATING!

    (I will also say swaddling can be a new parent’s savior… I remember the first time I swaddled D to sleep, at about 2 months, and he went from sleeping his usual 3hr stretch to 7 straight hours. Heaven! hey, mama’s gotta stay sane somehow… ; )

  4. Montessoribeginnings June 29, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    I’m so glad you are posting again. I was just about to write a post along the same lines. Hope you are enjoying your summer and married life.

  5. Arwen July 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    Ditto on the tongue tie comment. I had a baby with his frenulum all the way up to the tip of his tongue. For the first few days he would just cry and cry. Turns out he wasn’t able to get enough to eat. The ped. snipped it, and all was better.

    But I couldn’t tell from your post whether you meant all babies or just those with tongue tie.


  1. Twitted by mightymarce - June 28, 2010

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  2. Twitted by DeepSouthDoula - June 28, 2010

    […] This post was Twitted by DeepSouthDoula […]

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