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