This is a piece I wrote for Mother.ly about 7 months ago that never got published. But I found it the other day and thought it sad that it never saw the light of day. Then I remembered, I have my own blog. Duh. So, here it is…
The Montessori life. Loving, respectful children, capable of playing independently, cleaning up after themselves, drinking out of a cup, and climbing on to their floor mattress at bedtime all on their own. Ah. Sounds lovely. I want that for my little girl. I really do. But I have my doubts. Not in the philosophy, but in my abilities to be a Montessori mom. You see, it takes a very special person to do this job. You have to be clean, organized, routine-oriented, and patient. Very, very patient.
I am none of these things.
When I walk in the door, I pull off my shoes using my feet and foot-toss them as close as possible to the shoe area. I pull off my daughter’s shoes and toss them with the same effort.
I walk past the powder room, forgetting that we should make it a habit to wash her hands as soon as she walks in the door. I will remember this important self-care task seconds after I put her down at her appopriately-sized dining table, scurrying her to the bathroom while she kicks and screams because she’s “HUNGY!”
Once that's finished, I begin to say, “Charley, get a plate from your…” Oh wait. I didn’t replenish her dish-setting drawer. There are no plates, no forks, just a lonely bib and a cup that she never uses because every time I try to get her to drink from an open-mouthed cup, she pours it all over herself.
We sit down to eat, and per usual, any attempts to eat with a fork are futile. It typically ends up on the floor or in my face because she wants me to see that she has “FOKE.” I don’t teach her how to use it (again) because I’m more worried about her losing interest in her food than her fork-using abilities.
“All done!” she says. “Okay,” I say. “Let me wipe your hands (yes, I wipe them for her), then you push your chair in.” She pushes it in! Yay! I needed a win. Then, without being asked, she picks up her plate and brings it towards the sink. Yay! Another wi…whoops. She drops the food all over the floor. That’s okay! Learning lesson, right? “Let’s clean it up together,” I say. She stops, looks at me, looks at the plate, then books it to the other side of the room. I don’t push because I know it will take ten times longer for her to help.
She checks out her extremely stale play area while I clean up in the kitchen. There are no trays. No rugs. No wooden shelf. Just a fireplace with six (usually untouched) toys atop, and one pink plastic (yes, I said it) desk and chair next to them. She throws my latest Pinterest attempt across the room (golf tees hammered into the bottom of an egg carton) and circles back around to the kitchen where she can do some real damage (i.e. throw my Pyrex lids like frisbees).
It’s nap time. Thank God. We read three books, sing a song, and I put her in her crib, wondering if she is capable of using an open bed where she would be able to roam freely if she so chooses. Nah. She’s…ahem, I’m not ready. I spend nap time poring over a Montessori book…
Oh, that’s good. I’ll write that down.
I can’t see that ever happening.
Is this author serious? That’s not realistic.
Or maybe it is for other kids, just not mine.
Or worse. Maybe it is for other moms, just not me.
She’s up!! Crap. I forgot to set up a new activity for her. Oh well. I’ll just wing it. We go downstairs and I set her up with a few empty containers and jars with lids. She loves them! Independent-play win. YUSSS.
“Charley, can you set the table for dinner? “I say. I get down to her level and explain to her to put the placemats on the table. Then, the plates, then the forks. Ugh. That was probably too much information at once. And now I’m wondering, have I ever taken the time to explain exactly how to do that?
She gets the placemats out. All eight of them. I explain to her that we only need two, and to put the others back in the drawer. Next, the plates. This time, I have a pile of clean plates for her ready in her drawer. Of course, that means she takes all three plates out, puts her feet in two of them, and throws the other on the floor. I calmly explain to her that the plates are for eating, not stepping in. I wash the plates, then leave them in the drying rack so she can’t try to use them as footwear again.
I pick her up to her chair at the kitchen table. We sit, we eat, she plays with her food, and turns her fork into a scraping device for our table. I try not to comment on her eating habits, how good the food is, and if she is going to eat those delicious parsnips I spent so much time cutting up into small pieces. I want to make sure she doesn’t feel any pressure, and that she’ll eat if she’s hungry, stop when she’s full.
“All done!” she says and signs. We’re in the home stretch. From here, I set her up with a big bottle of milk (yes, bottle, not cup, not glass) and start cleaning the kitchen. She “helps me” sweep with her adorable Melissa & Doug broom and dustpan. But it’s more of a matter of keeping her busy rather than actually accomplishing any sweeping.
We play a little longer, then it’s time for bed. After our usual power struggle, I get her to her stool at the sink for teeth-brushing time. To keep her there, I turn on Boo, our stuffed toy elephant — an unrealistic portrayal of an animal and one that sings, making it a passive toy. Ugh, the shame.
We change into her PJs. I try to let her help, but honestly, at this point, I just want to get this show on the road. She picks out her books (hey, there’s some independence), we snuggle up, and read. Lights out, a song and a slow dance, and in to the bed she goes. “Nigh Nigh!” she says, followed by a kiss-blow. My heart melts.
Another day in the books of a thousand failures and about three and a half wins. I think I can do better tomorrow. I just have to try harder. And remember — there was a time when she refused to push in her chair, insisted on throwing food during meals, and wouldn’t touch anything that implied the word “clean up.” So I must be doing something right. Right?