"The reason for following Montessori ideas and practices, then, is not to be a better mother or father or to have a better child, or even because as a parent you love your child so much. It is because you respect your child and what he represents in the continuum of human life."
-Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen, Montessori From The Start, 2003
These words struck a chord with me when I read them. So much so that I had to write them down. Then I had to read them again and let them soak in. All of these things this statement says are not the reason for following Montessori ideas and practices sound perfectly acceptable to me. What is wrong with following Montessori to be better parents or have better children? And, don’t we so often hear that if you love your child, one of the best gifts you can give them is the gift of Montessori (in school and at home)? Then, I realized this statement is not saying that it is wrong to follow Montessori ideas and practices for those reasons, it’s making the point that those reasons alone are not enough. There are a million and one ways to be better parents and have better children, and (sorry) choosing Montessori is not the only way to demonstrate how much you love your child.
I certainly do not go around thinking I am a better mother and love my child more than a parent who has chosen not to follow Montessori. Do I believe following Montessori ideas and practices has made me a better mother? Yes. Do I believe Montessori is helping my children become their better and best selves? Yes. Did I choose Montessori because I love my children so much? Absolutely yes. And, the reason that I chose Montessori as more than a form of education is because I respect my children and what I know they have the capacity to be and become.
As a mother, making that realization has made life both harder and easier. It makes life harder when I am fully aware that we could have been out of the door 15 minutes earlier if I would just pick out clothes, put toothpaste on the toothbrushes, clean up plates, put on shoes and jackets, etc. It makes life easier when I watch my 2-year-old son lay his jacket on the floor, walk around to get behind it, flip it over his head, and then look up at me with an “I-did-it” smile. It makes life harder when my almost 5-year-old son gets upset about folding his laundry when he’d rather play and tells me I’m not nice. Then, that same child will surprise me and fold his blankets so beautifully and place them on his bed just-so and offer to help fold his younger brother’s clothes.
If I’m honest, there are days when all I’m holding onto is the respect I have for my children and what they represent for humankind. If I don’t hold onto that, I just might lose it. I am loving and trusting and respecting so much, because in certain moments my knowledge of who my boys will become is what makes life easier. I hold onto the fact that I have two boys who will greet everyone they know. And, sometimes, they will greet people they don’t know. My younger son will ask, “Are you okay?” and offer hugs. He even asks our rabbit if he can pet her. My older son is genuinely concerned when he notices a friend is not at school. He draws pictures for his grandparents to make them happy. I don’t share these qualities to brag, I share them because they helped me come to the realization that because I respect my children I have to remind myself of the bigger picture (for us): that our children make meaningful contributions to society to better the whole. Does that mean that we expect more of them than some think we should? Yes. Does it mean we are not allowing them to be themselves? To the contrary. We are allowing them to be their best selves and helping them find their purpose.