Tag Archives: babies

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


The “Babies” Review Everyone Should Read

15 May

Here’s everything I felt about the movie but didn’t have the words to say…

Movie Review: Babies

9 May

Part parade-of-cuteness, part anthropological exploration, Babies takes a look at the first year in the life of four children: three girls (from rural Namibia, urban Japan, and urban U.S.) and one boy (from rural Mongolia).  There’s no dialogue, just background noises, baby babble, and the occasional snippet of adult conversation.  Yet it manages to say so much…

I was fascinated by the differences in mothering among the cultures: The Mongolian mother uses breast milk to clean the baby’s face and warms the baby’s bath water in her mouth (both make perfect sense, come to think of it); the Namibian mother practices Elimination Communication with her infant (though for her it’s just the traditional way of attending to her child’s physiological needs); the Japanese mother drops off her not-yet-crawling baby at daycare (much to the child’s dismay); the American mother (or maybe it’s the father) takes the child to Native American music sessions (in which the only people showing any interest or involvement are the adults).

The child-rearing approaches are as varied as the families’ socio-economic levels, and yet all the babies strive for – and achieve – the same things.  They bond with the parents, explore the world around them using all five senses, torment household pets, and work incredibly hard to develop gross motor skills.

I was fascinated by the contrast of the traditional Mongolian and Namibian families against their modern Japanese and American counterparts, proving that there’s more than one way to raise a healthy and happy child.  Regardless of their living conditions, the children were developing at their own rhythm, following Mother Nature’s plan, and pausing only when faced with environmental obstacles.  If anything, the children born in third-world countries seemed to have the upper hand when it came to solving problems on their own, and had more opportunities to learn from their communities.

While I couldn’t imagine raising a child in rural Namibia, it is refreshing to realize that one can forgo all the gizmos, gadgets, and toys we’re led to believe are essential for raising a happy and healthy child.  Behind this movie’s cuteness and novelty factor is an important lesson for all parents (and parents-to-be):  Children are resilient, follow their inner drive, and need only a healthy dose of freedom, love, respect, trust, and tangible experiences to unleash their potential.

I’m so brain-dead, I can’t think of a good title for this post

19 Feb

In the expansive (haha) amounts of free time I have left after teaching, cleaning the house, picking out tiles and fixtures for our bathroom remodeling project, practicing Italian, and planning our wedding, I am reading Parenting, Inc. (I know I should be reading The Advanced Montessori Method, but even hard-core Montessorians can get overloaded sometimes).

I plan to write an entire post (or two) about some of the book’s themes (it’s quite good), but in the meantime, I thought I’d share this concept from the book for you to mull over: Problem-Solving Deficit Disorder.

Wanna know where it starts?  Read this NYT article…

100 Billion

25 Oct

That’s how many neurons are in a baby’s brain when she’s born. The support of a baby’s cognitive development should start at birth, as witnessed in this video…