Monday, February 09, 2009

Commanding the Waves, and Setting a Course

I've been meaning to link all the recent posts on Dorothy Canfield Fisher and her Montessori Manual together in one post, so here we go:
  1. Retreat to Quiet for Little Children
  2. Human Dignity for Children
  3. Avoiding Near Occasions
  4. Reasons Behind the Rules
  5. Wild Irritability
  6. Wise, Harmless and Beneficial Actions
One more thing came up in my thoughts while I was pulling this together, so I'm putting it here because it seems important in tying everything else together. It's easy to read parenting books, especially ones that are idealistic in some way, and feel like you've really missed the boat and might as well give it up .... things just aren't ever going to be much better in your house, because you didn't start right and you keep failing every day. So here's the thought.

Families are a "Growth" Model

"To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience."
- Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

I sometimes wish someone had told me earlier in my years of being a mother that temporary personal issues and difficulties aren't fatal. (My mom did tell me by example and story, but I didn't listen, and this turned out to be one of those very Mistakes that Aren't Fatal).

In fact, one HUGE advantage in parenting is the amount of time you have and the amount of chances you have to get it RIGHT. Like Montessori education, it is quite self-correcting.

Families are "growth" models -- unlike a machine, which is always in danger of breaking down, families are like organisms, in which the task is to maintain and optimize and clear the way for health and life. (I actually did read that in a Mary Pride book and it was SO helpful to me -- I had read too many books about all the damage you could do to your kids by the wrong approach and it resulted in me savagely critiquing every single decision I made).

Families are growth models. If you see something going wrong, you will have occasion to correct it. You are expected to make course corrections. You know the song sung by the Irish Tenors, The Voyage:

Life is an ocean, love is a boat.
In troubled waters it keeps us afloat.
When we started the voyage
there was just me and you –
Now gathered around us we have our own crew.

Children are in "growth" mode, too. So the Montessorean principle is that it's better to work WITH the child's natural development than try to force it forward one way and push it back in another way, which is very difficult to do successfuly and if it is successful, isn't a good thing for the child in the long run.It will be sort of like the English king trying to command the waves, if the force is set against a natural and normal developmental strength or weakness of the child's. Dorothy Canfield Fisher, I think, is not talking about Super Parents or never making mistakes, but about general constructive principles and a habit on the mom's part to be the stronger, wiser of the two in a mother/child relationship. Or at least, I would imagine that is what she is saying, because that is what I think is true. Part of being stronger and wiser is the willingness to pick oneself up and try once more. Sometimes, that's ALL it comes down to, but if you can teach your children that lesson by example you've probably taught them one of the most important things they need to know.

With no maps to guide us we steered our own course.
We rode out the storms when the winds were gale force.
We sat out the doldrums in patience and hope.
Working together we learned how to cope.

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