“I wish they would stay at this age forever,” commented the father of one-year-old twins.
“My little boy is growing up too fast,” lamented a friend on Facebook.
“If I wean my baby, I feel like I’m losing my connection with her,” a fellow mom admitted.
We can’t deny that from the moment of birth, our babies demonstrate an unstoppable drive towards functional and intellectual independence. A few moments after leaving the womb, if given the right environmental conditions, babies start working hard to focus their eyes and take in their immediate surroundings. They struggle mightily to control their limbs and only a few months later begin to roll, crawl, and stand. They discover food and try eagerly to communicate their desire to partake in mealtimes.
Fast forward a year or so and you’d be deaf to not hear the battle cry of the toddler: “Help me to do it by myself!” The “terrible twos” are nothing more than the child’s struggle to assert his independence in a world that’s not ready to support it.
The elementary-aged child who has mastered the ability to dress, groom, and feed himself now has another goal in mind: “Help me to think for myself!” And the adolescent, so much the contrarian at times, simply wants to play an active role in a society that doesn’t acknowledge his potential.
If Nature has endowed the human species with this unstoppable drive, then shouldn’t our role as parents be to support it, nurture it, celebrate it, and remove obstacles from its path?
There’s a reason Maria Montessori stressed the importance of reality: it helps us accept life as it is, and not get lost in a fantasy world of things as we wish they could be. So let’s accept what is happening: our children are growing up. Instead of fighting Nature and handicapping our children’s development in the process, let’s protect and guide this growth!
Keep your children away from negative media influences that will warp their perspective. Choose your words wisely so they transmit trust and confidence in their abilities. Set clear and reasonable limits and enforce them with determination. Take deep breaths when shoes take ten minutes to get tied, shirts are worn inside-out, plates break, and the pancakes get burned.
Give them time and freedom to explore, discover, make mistakes, deal with consequences, get into problems, find creative solutions, ask for help, assist someone in need, and eventually to discover why they’re on this planet.
Cherish those sweet memories of the past, but leave them there. Celebrate your child’s present achievements, not with a “good job” but by acknowledging their new abilities and incorporating them into your expectations. Open your arms wide to receive your child in a hug, but then turn towards the future and spread them even wider to let him fly free.