Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Now I Know Something

Like many children, my son has an affinity for all things science.  He loves learning how the world works.  Currently, we carry a notebook and whenever he has a question that I can't answer (which is most of his questions), we write it down so we can look it up later.  But, even more than hearing about or seeing something researched from the internet, he loves seeing how it it works in action.  So, for the holidays, he was gifted a microscope.  It's a great tool, essentially magnifying anything you put underneath it just slightly, but not requiring any adjusting on the part of the child, which can be difficult.  He can take almost anything and slide it underneath and look at it more closely.

Recently, he became enthralled by crystals.  He wanted to experiment and observe them form himself.  There are a lot of expensive kits out there, some that work and others that don't, but I found three crystal growing recipes all using salts which you can easily buy in any grocery store (here, here and here).  Enter Snowmaggedon 2016, and we were ripe for a week of experimentation (insert maniacal laughter for my husband who did not initially understand why he was sent to the store the day before the storm amidst desperate milk and bread buyers and long lines to purchase alum...thank you, honey).  After a week of boiling, mixing, coloring, melting, and cooling, we had a beautiful set of different crystal specimens.  I brought out the microscope and showed my kids they could place the crystals underneath the lens to look at them better.  Then I prepared to head over to the computer to look up exactly how crystals form, because, despite my ability to understand that the salts had crystallized during the cooling process, I must admit that I didn't really know how.

I still don't.  The question never arose.  No question ever arose.  Instead, something else happened entirely.  And it all began with a "look, mommy!"  He explained to me that he could see there were crystals growing on top of each other.  And there I was poised to google how crystals grow and impart wisdom and knowledge upon him, when thankfully, my Montessori mind kicked in and said "don't do it, DON'T SAY A WORD!!!!"  And, so, I didn't.   I let him continue to observe, without intervening, or better put, interfering.  I waited like a baited hook, but there was no nibble.   He announced "crystals grow on top of each other!" with great certainty. "Now I know something."

He would continue to explore the crystals for a while longer, as I sat in awe of his remark.  Yes, indeed, he did know something now.  He learned something on his own.  This concept is at the heart of Montessori education.  When children are free to explore hands-on-materials, they make their own discoveries.  But no child had ever said this before, and suddenly I was reminded of how important this central theme is to education, and to parenting, and to life.  The best way to learn is to make discoveries on your own.

In Spontaneous Activities In Education, Dr. Montessori wrote "our care of the children should be governed not by the desire to 'make them learn things', but by the endeavor always to keep burning within them the light which is called intelligence."  As educators and parents, we often feel compelled to thrust information upon children.  But, even if we are guided by their interests, when that information is not requested, it becomes a hinderence to the learning process.  It is not necessary for the child to know everything, but rather, for the child to discover things and know that the power to learn is within them.  Our impulses to jump in can easily blow out that burning light, trumping discovery, and ultimately, making the situation about ourselves.  But, when we pause and step back, we allow the child to explore and come to conclusions that he can build upon.  We stoke the fire of that burning desire to learn such that he may proclaim "now I know something."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The SLOW Path To Reading

It's official.  He brought home his first reader.  I have sat and listened to nearly a hundred children read this very same book.  But today, the emergent reader sitting before me is my own.  I feel so much pride, and I think, why does it matter so?  Why is this SO important?  And I'm not the only proud one; he's proud too.  We took a video of him reading to send to his grandparents.  Later, he asked to watch it, and I just watched the smile erupt on his face.  Only six days ago, as we made our new year's resolutions, he had told me "I want to learn to read."  And here he was.  Reading a real book.  Six days ago, I'm not sure he realized how close he was.  My heart is still fluttering.

As I watched my little guy officially enter the world of reading, it occurred to me that my excitement has nothing to do with his gaining a skill.  Yes, he is now developing an important skill that will assist him in his journey towards success in whatever he pursues.  But, that's not what excites me.  I am not proud because he is gaining a skill.  Instead, I am proud because he is gaining access. Access to a world greater than his own.  Access to a wealth of information, adventure, creativity, and exploration.  Access to a pursuit of knowledge directed by himself.  Access to the freedom of self-education.  I am excited for him because he has arrived here with desire and confidence, and from that profound place, he will continue to grow in his skill and his connection to this amazing world will deepen.

As a Montessorian, one of my greatest passions is language and reading.  It's a mind blowing thing to watch language develop.  Seeing the transformation from understanding speech to comprehending the written word makes me truly realize how astonishing are the capabilities of the human brain.  Especially one of a child.  There is no magic here, rather hard-wiring so complex that it cannot be stopped.  The brain must learn language.  It needs to learn language.  It will learn language.  As long as there is exposure, there will be learning.

We Montessorians know that the adult does not teach the child to speak.  Barring any difficulty or complications with the hard-wiring, the child will speak.  Anyone who's had an intense conversation with a two year old will realize how quickly and complexly that it happens.  The role of the adult is to enrich the language around the child, make it accessible, and only in that way can we affect the development of the child's language.  No, we do not teach language.  We share it.

Reading is not much different.  The process is the child's.  The process is there in the brain.  We do not teach the child to read.  We give the child access to the components of reading, just as we did speech, through sounds and syllables.  Only this time, we relate it to the symbols of the written word.  We share this information.  We do not teach.  We share and share and share, and then we share some more.  And when we have shared enough of the building blocks, then something incredible happens.  Something amazing.  Something hard-wired.  The child takes those building blocks and puts them together.  The child reads.  Spontaneously.  I have even seen it happen without warning.  And when the child reaches this place of his own accord, without force or pressure, he arrives with confidence.  He arrives with passion.  He declares his desire to keep forging ahead, to learn more, to voraciously feed his appetite for learning.  He is a reader.  This child knows the power reading holds.  It is the power of self-education.  It is the key.  It is access.

I have known this day was coming for a quite a while.  From a distance I have watched the signs.  He knew more sounds.  I heard him starting to listen for sounds in words and break them apart and then blend them together again.  He would build words at home with the magnetic letters on the chalkboard.  I could see the building blocks.  Some might think that as a Montessori teacher, I have been able to add much to the process.  But what I have added is not what some might think.  I have added silence and patience.  Yes, if he asks for the sound of a word, I let him know, but I do not push.  I do not schedule time for us to practice.  I do not request that he learn.  I know the materials are in his classroom and I know that he is attracted to them.  I trust the process.  Were I homeschooling, I might be more involved in that I would provide the building blocks myself, but I would be relying on the same process.  Waiting.  Waiting for interest.  Waiting for requests.  And I would share, as I do now occasionally.  Share the sound for each symbol when he is interested.  Provide letters so that he may practice making a word and recognizing the symbols that make up the sounds he hears in a word.  At home he might be drawn to the magnetic letters on the chalkboard to do this; at school he is drawn to the beautiful wooden Moveable Alphabet letters in the same way.  He builds words.  Words he wants to make.  He practices.  And we wait.  His teacher waits.  I wait.  It is a waiting game.  Waiting for the skill to build.  Waiting for repetition to take hold so that he is no longer thinking of a sound and trying to remember what the symbol looks like, but now he is suddenly looking at the symbol and recalling the sound.    She and I both know that the longer we wait, the stronger his skill.  We are waiting for it to come together in his mind.  So I let her keep sharing, and she finds new and interesting ways to share (maybe a scavenger hunt to find words with the sound associated with a specific symbol or maybe writing a story with the letters).  She shares.  He repeats.

This is the longest part of the process.  It is also the most important part of the process.  If we push, there is a grave risk.  We risk breaking that fragile sense of confidence.  We risk making it seem harder than it is.  We risk messing with the process that is happening in his mind.   We risk his passion and his innate drive.  So, we wait.  And then one day, we see the sounds coming and blending together in his brain.  We see that he can recall the sound for every letter when he sees it.  Then, and only then, does his teacher share the next step.  The book.  The punctuation.  The sight words.  Oh they come together so beautifully.  And there he is.  Reading.  Of his own accord.  This is still just another step in the process, there is still so much to learn.  But this is the top of the hill.  When the child reaches the apex with such support, the rest of the process is all downhill.  Like a sponge the child grasps at new information, sucking it in with vigor and such incredible retention, just as he did with verbal language.  He is a reader.  He has the key.  He has access.

My son is 4 years and 9 months old.  This was the age at which the process took hold in his mind.  It is not the same for every child.  Some reach the apex sooner.  Some reach the apex later.  Some reach the apex much much later.  It does not matter when they do (I once knew a child who was 7/8 years old before all the building blocks came together and today he excels as a student).  It does not matter when the process takes hold.  It matters that it does take hold in such a manner that they are confident and driven.  If they reach this point without those two things, the rest of the journey may not be downhill.  It may continue to be forever uphill, forever a struggle.  I had no desire for my son to become an early reader.  I had every desire for my son to become a strong, confident, and passionate reader in whatever time his mind needed.

I watch many children and many parents struggle with reading.  They so often struggle in ways they never struggled with the development of spoken language, which was gracefully shared and the process left to the child's mind.  I blame a system where reading is treated differently than language development, not as a natural process of the child's but something that has to be created by the adults.  It is taught.  It is pushed.  In the public school system, children are being forced to become readers earlier and earlier, trying to meet a deadline for the next grade.   Trying to meet a standardization.   I continue to see children taught letter names that have no relevance in the reading process (the only time you use letter names in education is in mathematics, and then you still do not use all of them, or alphabetization which is not a skill needed in reading).  I see children pushed, work-booked to death.  Imagine if we did such a thing with spoken language!  I dare say no child would ever wish to speak!

My deepest wish for every child is that the adults around them learn to share the reading process rather than teach it.  Share the sounds and relate them to the lower case symbols (oh, can we please delay the learning of capitals and letter names and focus on sounds first!).  Contemplate words and how to put them together.  Build simple phonetic words together and save complexity for later (build upon a solid foundation!).  Then wait.  Have patience.  Reading is language, only in a different form.  Montessori (as well as other non-traditional methods) education has developed ways to follow the natural process.  If we let it develop in the same manner as spoken language, as the natural process of the mind, and have faith in that development, if we let children take the slow path to reading and let them develop confidence and understanding of the building blocks we share, then maybe we will have an entire generation of confident readers.  Maybe we will have an entire generation with the key.  And maybe, just maybe, we will have an entire generation with a drive for self-education and the pursuit of knowledge.  I dare say reading is so powerful, and confidence even more so.  Let every child become a reader in his own time.  Let every child slowly reach for the key and gain access.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The C-Section That Healed Me

On November 25, my darling girl was brought into the world.  Even though it was not what I hoped for her, her birth healed me.  I didn't even know I was still hurting.

I had never wanted hospital births for my two children.  I think a home birth would have been a wonderful experience, although I will never know if it would have been successful or safe (for me; I want to emphasize that because I do believe in assisted home births).  My husband and family just couldn't get behind a home birth, too worried what might happen, and so I went with midwives who delivered in the hospital.  They were far less intervention focused throughout my pregnancy and birth than I imagine many doctors may have been.  Still, birthing in a hospital is the same.  It's cold, it's medical, and it's not relaxing.  My son's birth did not go easily.  I labored as much as I could at home (more than two days) and 60-some hours later I still couldn't fully dilate.  He just couldn't find his way out and we ended up in a c-section.  I was devastated.  It took a session with my former therapist to move me past the sense of failure I was experiencing.  But, I did.  I moved on, and I became a mother.

So when my daughter came into the world, we were prepared for the worst, not knowing how it might play out.  To this day, I still wonder what would have happened had we had a home birth, and I had not been thrown into the medical environment of the hospital.  But, that said, what ensued changed the failure I felt during my son's birth and it's a story I hope hospitals in the future learn to repeat.

My daughter was born at the same hospital that my son was, Loudoun Hospital's Birthing Inn.  I dilated to 5 cm in the first 5 hours of labor and was admitted to the hospital, and I was so excited.  I was feeling so strong, hypnobirthing, and feeling like this time we were going to succeed; we were going to have a VBAC and all would be wonderful.  And then I stalled.  Once hooked up to the IV (required because of my last caesarian) and interrupted by strangers, I failed to dilate any further in the next five hours.  I knew from before where we were headed.  Because I was under the hospital's deadline, I only had 24 hours and I needed to get restarted.  And I made my first mistake, I let the midwife break my water.  I wish I hadn't.  I wish I'd tried a few more tricks first, though, I don't know what they would have been.
And then it all came crashing down.  If you've ever had your water prematurely broken, you'll know that it intensifies the contractions suddenly instead of gradually.  I completely fell out of my hypnobirthing calm.  I was suddenly in pain and I couldn't get on top of it.  And I knew that if this went on for ten more hours, there would be no way I could push.  I just wanted her to come out some way other than surgically.  So I begged for the epidural.  Not my finest moment, and not my proudest having desperately wanted a completely natural birth.  But I had been here before, and I just couldn't see any other way through.  Everything calmed down after that.  I progressed.  And finally, I made it to ten centimeters!  I got to push!

And I pushed.  And then I pushed.  And then two hours later, I pushed some more.  And everything went wonky again.  I couldn't push her out.  I barely had much epidural left.  I could feel my legs and I could squat.  We tried everything and I couldn't get her to budge.  My contractions began to start crashing down so fast that they actually had to give me medicine to slow them down (I was now a little grateful for the epidural).  I got a fever.  Her heart rate indicated she was stressed.  And then, finally, my midwife looked at me and said the word I had been dreading: "c-section."  Having been through what I had been through with my son, I had promised my husband I wouldn't fight the recommendations if they seemed valid.  So, I didn't fight.  And off to the operating room we went.

I know this story doesn't sound wonderful.  It's everything that home birth and natural birth advocates warn you about.  Hospitals lead to interventions and interventions lead to increased likelihood of caesarian birth.  And it doesn't matter if you have a midwife.  It's just the nature of hospitals.   I don't have any responses for that.  I don't know how a home birth would have gone for us.  I don't know if I was just one of those women who really does have a small pelvis (something the woman who ended up cutting me open speculated).    But, that's not what this post is about.  This post isn't about how I ended up in a caesarian.  I did.  It happened.  And my daughter is safe, so that's all I need to know.  This post is about everything that happened afterwards.

There it was.  The dreaded word "c-section" hanging in the air.  My husband looking at me hoping I wouldn't fight, hoping I wouldn't do anything that could make him lose me, and scared that things could go wrong.    I found myself nodding and relenting.  But then, I grasped one more time.  I said to my midwife, "ok, let's do this, but please, can I hold my baby, in my arms, right away?"

She said "yes."

Granted, I was told they'd have to check the baby first at the little station, make sure she was okay.  I understood.  But my heart was light.  I never held my son after he was born until we got to recovery.  I, the only voice and smell he knew, was not there to comfort him and tell him that I was there, that I would always be there.  My heart still cries when I think about that.

But not this time.  This time was different.  In the three years since my son's birth, The Birthing Inn had become part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.  Now, instead of giving out samples of formula (or allowing any formula propaganda) and begging to take your child to the nursery, they are supporting breastfeeding 100% (including initiating skin to skin contact after birth) and making it their priority not to separate mother and baby.  And so, when my daughter was born, they took her over to the little table and checked all her vitals, and then they handed her to me.  I was still on the operating table, a sheet between my upper and lower body as they stitched me back up.  I held her close to my chest, felt her skin with my face, and I told her how much I loved her.  And she cried, and when I hushed and soothed her, she calmed.  And then the hospital nurses did something I never imagined.

They didn't take her away.

I held her and calmed her for a long time.  When they finished stitching me up and were ready to move me to recovery, I handed her to my husband who walked her to the neighboring room.  The staff transferred me off the operating table and into a bed and wheeled me to the room.  Ten minutes after she left me, she was in my arms again.  She nursed for the first time.  And, to my amazement, she never left me again.

If my last hospital experience and caesarian left me feeling like a failure, this hospital experience and caesarian made me feel protected.  The hospital performed every procedure in our room.  During my stay with my son, I felt like I was fighting to keep him with me or my husband at all times, but this time I never even had to request it.  She just stayed with us, and they came to her.

According to Baby-Friendly USA, "The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding."  It truly is a wonderful program, and one that I hope more hospitals will join.  For me, it changed everything.  When you have a caesarian, or any medical intervention you did not plan on or intend, it's easy to feel like you failed your child.  When separated from your child, it's easy to feel like you weren't there for him.  I know, because that's exactly how I felt last time.  But, while I had moved on and accepted that a few hours would not erase all that I had done for my son during my pregnancy and all that I have done for him since, I still think back on those moments after his birth with heaviness in my heart and through the lens of tears that marked my first viewing of him.  I did not realize how affected I still was, until they put my little girl into my arms and let me soothe her.

This time, I did not fail.  And I can only hope more hospitals begin to empower more mothers that way.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Was Mean Today

It's so hard to be a patient mom sometimes.  It's so hard to be positive and understanding and thinking about everyone but yourself when all you feel like doing is just curling up in a corner.  There are moments when all your patience is wasted and you're just grasping at straws.  And in those moments, sometimes you just have to face the cold, hard, guilt-ridden facts.

I was mean today.

I snapped when I should have taken a deep breath.  I pushed him away when I should have held him close.  I was frustrated when I should have been understanding.  I was angry when I should have been calm.  I stormed out of the room when I should have demonstrated patience.  I told him "I can't handle this" instead of "I love you."  Instead of being kind and loving, I was rough and insensitive.

I wasn't my best today.

It wasn't like that all day.  In the moments between my frustration, I was the kind and loving mother he's used to.  But then I'd turn on him again and he had no idea why.  There were a myriad of reasons. He'd been stick for days and hard to deal with, he was being mean himself, he didn't nap, he made me chase him in the store, I'm pregnant and having a particularly hormonal week, and his sense of order is so strong I can't even wear a sweater when I'm cold; the reasons go on and on.  They don't excuse anything, they don't make my toddler feel any better or make him understand more.  Maybe when he's older he'll know when his mother is having a rough day, but not yet.  No, today he laughed at me, or gave me a sad face of fear: who are you today, mommy?  He couldn't say that, but I know he was thinking it.  And sadly, I had no answer, because today I just wasn't myself.

The only thing I could do at the end of it all was apologize.  I came to him and held him in my arms. He asked to nurse and I obliged.

"Mommy was mean today," I said.

"Was mommy mean?"  The first time he responded with a yes, the second he responded with a no.  As always, he was in the moment.  So I did the best I could with the moment I had.  I told him that I thought I had been mean and that I was sorry, and that no matter what he does or how I feel, I love him always.

"Does mommy love you?"

"Yes."  Oh, thank goodness, he still knows that.  We nursed and snuggled and waited for his father to come home and hug us both into happiness.  Until then, we just had to both accept that neither of us felt wonderful and that's just the way it was.  I am so thankful for extended breastfeeding in those moments, because I know I can always bring him home.  But even if I wasn't, I know a snuggle would have helped too.

I was mean today.  But, I apologized.  And he forgave me.  Some days, that's just the best we can do.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What IS A Complete Family?

When you get to be eight months pregnant, it becomes an open topic of conversation you must have with strangers.  No longer do they glance at you silently, wondering but not daring to ask; their glances turn into outright questions and remarks.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining, entirely.  It's wonderful to hear "what a lovely pregnant belly."  Extremely bizarre, yes, but nice all the same.

The remarks vary from gracious and thoughtful congratulations to various types of questions.  Any given conversation, however, can meander it's way to the discovery that I'm having a girl.  And then, I almost always hear the same thing.  Let me give you a recent example:

Shoe Salesman: That's a boy, too *pointing at my large belly and gesturing towards my son*

Me: Actually, it's a girl; turns out I carry them all the same *recognizing that I'm carrying my girl like a basketball, just as I did my son, and gladly debunking that old wives tale*

Shoe Salesman: Ah, a complete family *smiling at my apparent great fortune*

Me: *dumbfounded look, weak smile, and no response*

There it is again: a "complete" family.  To me, this is the strangest remark, thought, utterance, (whatever).  What is a complete family???  Had I said she was a boy, would he have felt sorry for me?  Would my family be incomplete?  Would we be forever doomed to a life of incompletion because my husband and I decided that whether this child was a boy or girl, we don't plan on having more than two children?

I've heard this phrase so many times, even from family members. I know it is meant to be a celebration for my job well done (please detect sarcasm), but why do we go around perpetuating the idea that, unless you have one of each, then you are incomplete?  Why is one of each "better?"  And why is it okay to say something like that...aloud?

I googled "complete family" and no Wikipedia definition popped up.  There is no source to tell me where this idea derives.  If you click for the images, though, you don't find scores of families with a son and a daughter.  You find pictures of all kinds of families.  And they are all beautiful.  Dare I say...complete?

I wonder if perhaps people think I am getting the opportunity to experience raising both a girl and a boy, which are each a unique parenting experience.  But, why is that considered more valuable and uniques than the alternatives; thus, the idea of completeness?  I have many friends with two boys or two girls, etc.  They will get to see and support incredible sibling relationships: squabbles, closeness, jealousy, competition, empathy, and companionship that only two siblings of the same gender can experience.  They learn the uniqueness of their children in a special way, because they know its so much more than gender differences.  I have friends with only one child who have the wonderful experience of being able to give their child their full attention and never have to feel guilty that one is getting more than the other.  They have a special and amazing bond with their child.  Each of these parent's experience is like every other parent's experience: valuable, unique, and yes, complete.  Do they need to keep trying to achieve the opposite gender in order to have a fulfilling family experience? Not at all.  Are they incomplete?  Never.

And then it gets even more complicated.  What about step-families, and extended families, and married into families, families with no children, families with just pets?....well, you get my point.  Family is a complicated thing.

To get to a deeper understanding of the semantics involved, I looked up words like complete and family, and what struck me is that, particularly with the word family, there is no clear cut definition.  And, I think that's a true reflection of what family is.  Families are a support system (hopefully), designed to keep each other strong and social.  They come in many different sizes.  Sometimes, it's not even blood that relates them.  But that doesn't change that they are strong.  It doesn't change that they are bonded.  It doesn't change that they are complete.  What brings a family together are two simple things, two elements that makes all the other elements unimportant: love and support.  Love and support make a family; love and support complete a family.

I know this well; I know this deeply in my soul.  I'm not just spouting lovely ideas here.  I came from a "complete" family, but it turns out it wasn't complete, not even close.  My family has gone through many iterations since I was a child.  I have gained siblings and parents, and grown as a person from every relationship.  My family is larger than blood, and stronger, too.  It is special, because it is filled with that very love and support.  It has given my children seven grandparents, multiple aunts and uncles, and the love grows and grows as we do.  So, whether you have two boys, two girls, one of each, one total, a hoard, a couple of dogs or cats (etc.), no children at all, a blended family, an adopted family, etc., etc....let me celebrate the love and support that completes your unit, your family.  Let us rejoice in every kind of family working hard to keep each other afloat and make each other smile.  I'm full of love right now, I'm pregnant; it comes with the territory.

(Image in this post is "Family and Small Child With Baby Stroller" by Vlado, from

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Here We Go Again...! Preparing for the Second Time Around

I've been absent for a long time again; I'm a terrible blogger.  I'd like to say it's because I'm not the least bit narcissistic and I don't jump to tell everyone my every thought...but, most people who know me well wouldn't say that's entirely true (and they need not comment about it here either...!).  There are a million drafts started, but I have never feel like I have the time to get clarity of thought.  And then, well, there's always something else to do.  Truthfully, it's because I'm easily overwhelmed.  I'm amazed at all the other mommy-bloggers.  How do they do it??  Toddler, household chores, part time job....

...and well, there's this:

Yup, we've been at it again.  The arrival of baby girl (yes, I said girl!) is around the corner; our family is growing.  Pregnancy has made me gear up and get all excited to go...directly to the couch.  It's a whole different ballgame this time around.  Ok, I won't lie, I spent the first pregnancy on the couch, too; but this time, I can't actually get to the couch.  No, the couch is like a magic land that I cannot reach because, well, there's no laying down when you have a toddler.  And then those cherished moments that I can actually lay down??  Well, I don't want to do anything, let alone touch a computer.  So, there you have it, I'm an overwhelmed mommy who just wants to lay on the couch.  And, a terrible blogger.

I was contemplating the other day, though, that this pregnancy, and this baby, are a completely new and different experience.  One I am ready to start sharing (without a hint of narcissism...).  Because this time around I know something that I didn't know before.  Something I thought I knew last time, but really, I had no clue.  It all comes down to knowing one simple thing about children.  THERE IS NO PLANNING.  There's no point in even trying.  Instead of planning in those small moments I have to myself, I just lay down instead.

I get asked questions a lot.  What are you going to differently this time around?  Where is baby going to sleep?  When will your son stop nursing?  Where will your son sleep when the baby arrives?  My answer is always the same:  I don't know.  Because I don't.  I have no idea what the answers are to those questions, I won't even try to guess.  Why?  Because I'm not my son, and I'm not my daughter.  I have no idea how my son will react as he doesn't either.  And I certainly have no idea what my daughter will do because, in most senses of the word, I don't even know her at all yet.

Instead, most of our efforts have focused on my son; we are trying to get him ready for this big change that will be coming.  And if there's one thing this little guy needs, it's slow transition to change.  We talk about the baby all the time, he comes to all the doctor visits to hear her heartbeat, we practice holding his baby doll, and we read stories to the baby.  We tell her how lucky she is to have such a wonderful brother already.  He gives her big kisses goodnight and talks to her softly.  We listen to other babies cry and talk about how his sister will cry too because she won't have words, and he'll have to help teach them to her.  We talk about how she'll need a lot of "nummies" because she can't eat food like he can.  He may have no idea what he's in for, but we hope that we've made the process as gradual as he needs.  Still, it won't surprise me if, three weeks from when she arrives, he asks "when's she going back in?" 

As for me: if my son has emphasized anything to me, it's that he's the map that I must follow, and I know she will be too.  And follow her we will.  She will create herself, and we will watch in awe.  And I will have to make my own transitions; I will learn what it's like to love two little people so deeply.  I cannot imagine it.  But, ready or not, here we go!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Years Fly By! Celebrating A Second Birthday

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

My son is TWO.  I could not think of words more appropriate than those of Dr. Seuss (but, isn't that how it always goes?).  In two years, he has developed into an amazing and unique little person. We often remark on how the years pass so quickly, and how much our little ones change, but today makes me think back to two years ago and the person he's been all along.

The French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."  It is along these same lines that Dr. Montessori always spoke of the spiritual embryo.  From birth, our spiritual selves are present, holding within us all the elements we need to begin to create ourselves.  In the Secret of Childhood, she wrote:  "We should regard this secret effort of the child as something sacred.  We should welcome its arduous manifestations since it is in this creative period that an individual’s future personality is determined.”  But the child's secret is not without influence from the world around it.  In The Child In The Family, Montessori wrote: "The child thus incarnate is a spiritual embryo which must come to live for itself in the environment. But like the physical embryo, the spiritual embryo must be protected by an external environment animated by the warmth of love and the richness of values, where it is wholly accepted and never inhibited."  The process through which the mind and soul form is there from birth, but influenced by the love and care (or lack thereof) that we give the child.

From day one, my son demanded physical contact and attention.  He always knew what he needed and found a way to voice it...loudly.  Even in those first 48 hours, nurses would look upon him and remark "it's like he knows what's going on; what an old soul."  Over the next two years, people would continue to comment on how knowingly he takes in the world.  In those first days, I think we inherently knew my son would need extra: extra love, attention, patience, support, and sacrifice.  And in giving him extra, he has given us everything: faith, wonderment, trust, and a love I could barely imagine.

Today, he is full of laughter and mischief.  He is cautious, but still taken with a sense of adventure.  He is occasionally shy and reserved and, other times, talkative and charming.  He is dependent and clingy while still full of independence and drive.  He is incredible and complicated, frustrating and inspiring, infuriating and heart-melting.  He is a contradiction of wonders that has made my life unimaginably complete.  And that is truer than true.