When I was a young mother living out of state for a year, I learned a lot from a group of mothers working on bringing Montessori to their town, which was, thanks to their efforts, already rich in Suzuki. I took each of their stories to heart, tucking away in my heart for when needed, the values and the points of practice for living them out.
Each weekday, I pick my three-year-old daughter, the younger of my two children, up from her Montessori Children’s House community at noon. Our commute home can range from five to fifteen minutes in duration, because of five sets of traffic lights. On the days when every traffic light turns red, the journey can be less than smooth sailing. “Drive, mama, DRIVE,” she begs as I come to a halt. I look back at her tired eyes, and there’s nothing I want more than to keep moving. With empathy and firm-ness I respond, “You don’t want mama to stop the car. You really, really wish I could drive so we could be home quickly. But the light is red and it means stop, and I will drive when it turns green.”
I have recently become aware that in the arena of Montessori parenting, I am quite the old fuddy-duddy. My first child was born in an age before the release of the iPhone 3G. Conversely, by the time my second child entered the Children’s House, I owned an iPhone larger than the size of her head!
Finding joy in the cold, chaotic months of winter requires thought and planning, and a yogic awareness of time. Our winter celebrations of light and the real joy we find in simple gifts are too often lost in glitz and consumerism, even though we know the value of the presents we chose for our children is not measured extravagance or expense. A gift of great value is a small, loving investment of thought and attention, and an uninterrupted commitment of time.
Since leaving the classroom recently, after thirty-some years in the delightful company of children, I have spent a considerable portion of my time leading the development of the parent education programs for our school. It has given me a new and different joy, and a great appreciation for parents. It is an honor to work so closely with parents who are the primary educators of our children, who are the children’s models, their supporters, and their greatest source of love and admiration.
She was twenty and she told us that her mom had read aloud to her every night till she went off to university. The first time she came home for a visit her mom kissed her and said goodnight. “Wait,” she said to her mom, “we can’t go to bed till you read to me!” And so their custom continued, but over time it evolved into each of them alternating to read to the other from their current book.
Every child needs order and routine in their lives, and providing such may be the biggest challenge that we face as parents. With the distractions and demands of both professional and social life, it is easy for us to be distracted and to forget the basic requirement of parenting—giving your undivided attention to your child and to family activity. Your attention provides the order and expectation your child needs to feel secure.
Focus on developing your family’s own holiday traditions, the ones that arise from your own childhood and your family’s culture and religion, and give your children that most precious gift of all, the gift of your undivided attention and time, of a shared experience of meaning and texture.