By: Judy Henrichs (9/22/11)
It still bugs me that the instruction booklet must have been thrown away inadvertently with the packaging in the delivery room when our daughter was born. So here we were, new parents, fumbling through trying to help this precious life construct herself. So we did what everyone else does who has either been a child, had a child, or seen a child in a grocery store: we did the best we could to copy the great things our parents did in raising us, and we tried to improve on these prototypes by eliminating all the not so great things from our upbringings.
We think we did a pretty good job for the first couple years. Jessica was a loving, happy, brilliant, and healthy child.
Then, at 2 ½, she started Montessori school. Aaaarrggghhh! Our “perfect parenting” methods began to feel like a first year piano student at Carnegie Hall. Many of our parenting skills were actually pretty good we realized, but there was so much we needed and wanted to learn. But to do that, we were going to have to topple a few sacred cows.
For us, the first toppling was our belief that it was our job to be sure our daughter was occupied and stimulated every waking moment. Now we couldn’t have told you we believed that, but our behaviors belied us. She had tons of toys (hey, she was an only child and an only grandchild—what do you expect?) and just about every kid’s video on the market. During her waking hours we made sure that someone was playing with her and talking with her. And then we found out at Montessori that a child needs and wants time alone to focus and concentrate. Bummer! We found out that we were actually detracting from her brain development by having her watch kid’s TV and videos. Bummer! We found out that barraging her with questions about her day and what she did and who she played with and what did she learn and what did the teacher say and…and…and…was causing her to shut down because her developing little mind couldn’t process, analyze, and formulate adult-worthy answers. Bummer! But we learned, and we adjusted, and she thrived.
And then, over the years, we began to question whether we had made the right decision in offering her an education that taught her to think and to problem solve. We realized that she was actually doing it. Bummer! And, to our astonishment, she did not always think the way we did. Double Bummer! By age 12 she went so far as to change her name from Jessica to April (Jessica was too hard to say with her new braces, so she solved that problem the day she introduced herself at her new school). Holy toppled sacred cow! She was doing exactly what we had paid all those bucks to teach her to do: she was thinking and problem solving. Yippee!
So, as mere mortal parents devoid of an instruction book and with a barnyard full of toppled sacred cows, we stand before you with great pride. We did our best, we gave her our all, we learned and grew with her. And, despite all our mistakes and faults, we are blessed with a loving, happy, brilliant, and healthy woman that we are proud to call our daughter. Our Montessori daughter.