Montessori Summer — Give Yourself Permission
This post is part of our summer podcast series about Montessori outside school. If you’re just joining in now, we encourage you to check out the previous posts in this series, and to check out podcast episodes 72-77.
We’re wrapping up our Montessori Summer series. We’ve posted previously about Space and Time (the Prepared Environment), perhaps implementing a routine or addressing one area that poses challenges, actually following a child while going on a walk, practice giving choices. This time, we’re giving ourselves permission.
There can be a lot of pressure in parenting, a lot of worry about getting things right, as every parent wants to do right by their child. Sometimes the worry, especially with all the outside influences — physicians, elders, blogs and podcasts (including this one!) — can be immobilizing, and worry about making mistakes can be overwhelming when the stakes are so high. This isn’t a pet or a science experiment, this is a human!
We’re often asked questions by parents, about sleep, about food, about discipline or limits, all sorts of topics, but there’s a common thread — wanting to do right by a child. In every answer, we seek to assure parents, you are not alone. In the moment, it might feel very alone, that this struggle is unique, and you’re the only parent awake at 10:30 with a two-year-old who just won’t sleep. In the light of day, when we’re willing to voice our concerns and ask for help, we’re surrounded by a chorus of support, assuring us, you’re not alone.
When we’re faced with worry and wanting to do right by our child, we can fall into inaction. There’s a quote attributed to Maya Angelou. “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to do the best we can with the skills we have at the time, and we’re going to fall short. We’re going to look back and cringe, and it’s okay. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. It’s only in trying to do better, to serve our children the best, in growing, that we learn, and we have to give ourselves permission to not be perfect.
“Give yourself permission to ask for help, to try something new, to make wonderful learning-experience mistakes.”
Think of a child learning to ride a bike. Of course they’re going to wobble, and even to fall! It’s okay! We wouldn’t speak poorly to that child, or expect them to get it perfectly right the first time, or even the hundredth time! How can we have the same kind of perfect success from ourselves when we’re still learning how to parent? Or even from a child when they’re learning a skill less dramatic than riding a bike, say, pouring their own milk?
We’re only human. It’s okay, we all make mistakes. We’re not always our best selves. Sometimes our best selves fall short. Give yourself permission to try, to make mistakes, to forgive yourself, to ask forgiveness from a child, to move forward. All of those mistakes are learning experiences; you did then what you knew how to do.
Give yourself permission to listen to outside sources — to the elders, to the bloggers, to the physicians, to the bestselling books — and to say, “nope, our system is working!” There’s not always something that needs to be changed. Maybe tomorrow, today’s perfect solution, the bedtime routine, the way of storing books, might need adjustment, but there are so many voices to listen to. Give yourself permission to have confidence in yourself. Each parent is the expert in their child; you know your child best. All the research and the outside opinions could never outweigh a parent’s instincts. Give yourself permission to listen to your best efforts and intuition above all else. Give yourself permission not to change, even in light of outside opinions.
Give yourself permission to ask for help, to try something new, to make wonderful learning-experience mistakes. When something isn’t working, we have the opportunity to change and to serve this experience, the child in this moment, in a better way. This might mean looking to Montessori resources, such as these that we’ve explored together this summer. This might bean trusting yourself and your instincts. Home isn’t school, and the most Montessori answer is doing what is best for your family, whether or not that looks like classroom life. In family life, sometimes we need to run from school to soccer practice to violin lessons to the grocery store and oh yeah we still need to eat dinner! Give yourself permission to not always have time for offering every choice, or for following the child in every minute, or for always creating the perfect prepared environment.
Mary Anne Radmacher is quoted as saying, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Give yourself permission to have this kind of courage. To do the best you can, in the best way you know how, with the skills you have today. Trust that you will always do right by your child, because you know your child best. You’re not alone. You might make mistakes, but you cannot fail.
Written by:Charlotte Wood