On a recent snowy morning, I met an old friend for brunch whose children were once students of mine in the Montessori school where I taught. Over foamy mugs of coffee and chai, she introduced me to her partner, also a Montessori parent of students who once attended the same school, but he had been there a few years before I started to work there, and well before my friend’s children attended. So three different parents, with completely different backgrounds, professions and different aged children, but all having had the good fortune of seeing our kids nurtured and inspired in the same school environment. As all parents do, we traded stories about our varied experiences in and out of Montessori schools and the humbling journey of parenting.
Our eyes grew misty as we reflected on our kids’ interests, causes, and sweetly generous ways of living in this world. As we contemplated passing along the care of this fragile, precious, swirling planet of blue and white on to them and their children, we can’t help but ask, did we teach them (or are we teaching them,) everything they need to know? Will they have what it takes to navigate through future complexities of problems and decision making that we ourselves may not ever face or can’t even imagine yet?
A Legacy to Build On
And while we let those questions linger in the air, the answer seemed to settle that we may never know, although we had offered our best, at least the best we could muster on any given day, some of them being hard days. We smiled in the knowledge that all of our kids had spent their formative years in a marvelously compassionate community of learning. By learning how to care for themselves at school—physically and emotionally, our kids were able to look around and start to notice and respond to the needs of others.
By finding joy and wonder in the natural world – the shapes of leaves, the names of the parts of plants and flowers and trees, those cheerfully colored maps of continents with orange and green and pink - our kids grew deep roots through experiencing connection to life hands on. In building beautiful patterns with the math bead materials, reading their first books, singing the same songs of peace and friendship with their class, our children had started to create a sense of identity in values we were proud of: respect for life, comfort and freedom in order, kindness and courage in relationship, and joy in learning. By questioning how things work, and how they are made, and why, we saw the flowering of intellect begin.
The Support of Friends
So as we bid farewell to the old year and welcomed in the new one, we were able to notice our own shared roots as parents in that clattering restaurant on Main Street over our plates of eggs and potatoes. We might have all had completely different styles in how liberally we reinforced house rules, whether or not we sent them to Sunday School, or how we dealt with problem-solving, but through every decision, we imparted our own vision of character development. Our united hopes were high for the future – even for our someday grandchildren – partly because we knew our kids had this shared story, a past we were grateful for, amid all of our other perceived victories or failures as parents.
Parenting is an act of tremendous courage. Risking our children to the world ultimately brings wrenching vulnerability through giving everything we care about over to the glorious uncertainties of life. And as much as we cherish them, invest in them, sacrifice for them and worry over them, by nature, parenting deals us a strong dose of letting go, as well. Not just in relinquishing whatever images we held (consciously or unconsciously) for what the many milestones our families would experience, but also in noticing and releasing our own attachment to countless expectations, even unspoken ones, mostly of ourselves.
Besides sharing advice and resources of support, friends can help you grow acceptance by seeing you just as you are. They can hold up a mirror that reflects all of the beauty back to you that you have created. They witness with you at the wonder and joy of creating life and watching it unfurl into something unknown. And as I tromped away through the snow that day, I gave a prayer of thanks for the friendships my parenting and my teaching have brought me.