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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Freedom to Grow

It isn't easy to allow a small child to explore her home. Some years before I became a Montessori teacher, my life was much simpler. I had a daughter with a crib and an occasionally used playpen. In her exploratory phase she discovered at the base of the bathroom wall a small short pipe that had a removable cap, which she promptly removed. A clever discovery that was harmless because luckily the pipe was dry. I had never noticed it before. I was quite proud of her.

Fast forward sixteen years. My son has no crib, no playpen. The first year of his life is exploration. He discovers (and falls in love with) electrical outlets. I plugged them with protectors. Hah! He pulled them out as soon as I had put them in. Heavy furniture? The impossible took a bit longer. I had centered our heavy upholstered couch in front of his favorite outlet in the living room. I returned to find his tiny body, still in crawling mode, wedged between the couch and the wall, in front of the outlet. It was an ongoing battle which I constantly lost. And yet he seemed never to have shocked himself. He did eat the one toadstool ever to be seen growing in our yard, quickly followed by a call to the poison center and a dose of ipecac. And during the one automobile emergency I had involving a tow truck, he managed to open my purse and extract and uncap a bottle of cold tablets. When I returned to him, his mouth was the color of their coating and the pills were lying all around him. That was the only thing that earned him a trip to the hospital emergency room.

So giving a child freedom to explore his world is tough on parents and requires generous loving vigilance. The pay off is that your child's beginner brain is exposed to all kinds of interesting things. Things that might have no seeming significance to you, but might be important to him. Might be important to who he will be. Here then are the questions you must answer: Are you brave enough? Are you vigilant enough? Can you help your child grow in freedom?

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