Release from solitude

Allow me a lenghty quote, and a few (less lenghty) comments. ? Is it me, or does anyone else wonder why it is taking so many Americans so long to realize some of the things Montessori mentions below? ? (More on this later – I think I can combine some of my readings!)

“But let us think, for a moment, of the many peoples of the world who live at different cultural levels from our own. ? In the matter of child rearing, almost all of these seem to be more enlightened than ourselves–with all our Western ultramodern ideals. ? Nowhere else, in fact, do we find children treated in a fashion so opposed to their natural needs. ? In almost all countries the baby accompanies his mother wherever she goes. ? Mother and child are inseparable. ? All the while they are out together, mother talks and baby listens. ? If the mother argues about prices with a vendor, it is in the child’s presence; he sees and hears all that goes on. ? And this lasts for the whole period of maternal feeding, which is the reason for this close alliance. ? For the mother has to feed her child, and therefore she cannot leave him at home when she goes out. ? To this need for food is added their mutual fondness and love. ? In this way, the child’s need for nutrition, and the love that unites these two beings, both combine in solving the problem of the child’s adaptation to the world, and this happens in the most natural way possible. ? Mother and child are one.

“Except where civilization has broken down this custom, no mother ever entrusts her child to someone else. ? The child shares the mother’s life and is always listening. ? Mothers are often said to be talkative, but this also must be a help to the child’s development and to his work of adaptation. ? Yet, were he to hear only words addressed to himself, he would gain very little. ? It is when he hears the full discourse of grown-up people, and can see their actions which make their meaning clear, that he grasps little by little even the construction of sentences. ? This is far more important than the one-syllabled words that his mother lisps to him. ? It is the language of living thought clothed in action.

“All the great human groups, nations and races have their individual differences; ? for example, they have different ways of carrying the baby….In most parts of the world, mothers put the baby on a small bed, or in a large bag; they do not carry him in their arms. ? In some countries, the child is attached by means of loops to a piece of wood which is then placed on the mother’s shoulders when she goes to work. ? Some hang the child from their necks, others tie him to their backs, and others again put him in a small basket; but in all countries mothers have found a way of taking their children about with them….

[And you thought our Moby Wrap looked strange! 🙂 ]

“Another point is the custom of prolonging the period of maternal feeding. ? Sometimes this lasts for a year and a half; sometimes for two, or even three years. ? This has nothing to do with the child’s nutritional needs, because for some time he has been able to assimilate other kinds of food; but prolonged lactation requires the mother to remain with ther child, and this satisfies her unconscious need to give her offspring the help of a full social life on which to construct his mind. ? Because, even if the mother does not speak to the child herself, the mere fact of being with her brings him into contact with the world; he sees and hears the folk in the street and in the market place, carts, animals, and other sights take a place in his mind, even if he does not know their names….

“One observes, too that the little one, going about with his mother, never cries unless he is ill or hurt in some way. ? Sometimes he may fall asleep, but he does not cry….

[My kids do cry, even in the wrap. ? But they cry so much less than when they are sitting by themselves! ? Even Lucy is still constantly asking us to “Hold you” – somtimes she just craves that physical closeness.]

“Yet the crying of children is a problem in Western countries. ? How often do we hear parents complain of their children’s incessant crying? ? They discuss what to do to quieten the baby, and how to keep him happy. ? The reply of modern psychology is this: ‘The baby cries and becomes disturbed, has screaming fits and rages, because he is suffering from mental hunger.’ ? And this is the truth. ? The child is bored. ? He is being mentally starved, kept prisoner in a confined space offering nothing but frustration to the exercise of his powers. ? The only remedy is to release him from solitude, and let him join in social life. ? This treatment is naturally and unconsciously adopted in many countries. ? With us, it must become understood and applied delibertely, as a result of conscious thought.”

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (written sometime prior to 1952)


So we buy expensive contraptions and schedule play-dates to entertain infants, who might merely want a different sort of mommy-time. ? Not that I object to the occasional play-date, but I do like the idea this leads toward, which is that children need to be socialized outside of their own age level (which requires a much more detailed post at another time). ?

It strikes me that the industrialization, and now the desk-ification of our work force ? has made it harder and harder for women to be with their babies. ? I know it is much easier for me to take Samantha (and even Lucy, sometimes) or to work in the garden than to try and do work on the computer, even in our own house. ? They thrive on the movement and fresh air, and sitting with me at a desk job would offer them neither. ? I am so glad that soon I can start working with them everyday rather than trying to work around them.

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