If you could have seen me at the park with my son two years ago vs. today with my daughter, you would not think I am the same person. I am a “recovering helicopter mom,” as I often joke.
It is a confidence boost I largely credit to our Montessori journey, because it is a path that led me to better understand movement as learning, which led me to slow down and more intentionally respect their chosen engagements.
The more I reflect on this shift, though, the more I realize the labeling is irrelevant. It is not so much that Montessori influenced me to switch to a different parenting style more than it inspired me to trust my children’s capabilities. It was not about how “free-range” I could be – in fact, any Montessori influence should be freedom within limits – it simply grew from wanting a more confident relationship with my children so they could grow more confident in themselves and their surroundings.
How trust is nurtured will look different for every family, but I will venture to say it is something most of us struggle with in today’s fear-based culture fueled by the 24/7 news cycle. Fear, particularly where it is disproportionate, is a big hindrance to confidence, independence, and unity.
I realized that distrust felt way easier to give to my kids than trust, even where trust was clearly warranted in the tiniest of moments – like last month, when we went blackberry picking and I worried about letting them roam the open acreage, or when my husband worried about letting my son get 0.2 miles ahead of us on his balance bike. Furthermore, even where we do find trust, sometimes we’re up against cultural distrust – like at the playground where passersby make comments about how my daughter climbs too high; or at our local library story time where we were instructed to keep our children by our sides at all times.
I wanted to change the script of this. I want them to feel the allure of the dirt path free of my lead, the satisfaction of crossing that wobbly bridge free of my weight worsening the wobbliness, and the confidence to interact with others free of me jumping in to speak for them. I want them to solve their own hesitations without unfairly planting the seed of perceived danger. I want my daughter to be able to pursue her love of climbing, to be able to interact with her peers at story time beyond my arm’s length, and for my son to experience the joy of riding a bike around the neighborhood.
How do I do this, especially in those moments where fear creeps back in, whether in the simplicity of their play or in the broader stroke of community? One day, one observation, one crossroad at a time – and in admitting where I as an adult may need to restore my own trust in our surroundings.
Our children’s first steps in the real world should be overwhelmingly wrapped in the warmth of the sun, nurtured by the comfort of community, and guided by an empowering curiosity for the unknown – not fear.
“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”― Maria Montessori
About the Author
Jenna Wawrzyniec is a writer and Montessori-inspired mother of two children under the age of four. Her two dogs also count as children. Read more of her work at itslittlebird.com.
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