“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment...Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.” -Dr. Maria Montessori
Conception to about seven years old is the time period during which parental influence makes the most impact on a new being. Further, it's truly the first two to three years of a child's life that are the most crucial in his or her development.
Why does therapy and psychoanalysis always revisit youth and first familial experiences? Why do adults who leave their childhood religions sometimes experience latent guilt despite being intellectually disconnected from the doctrine? Why do you think religions really focus on reaching children from jump? Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
We all subconsciously and naturally play out the archetypal dramas and instilled beliefs that were impressed upon us from our very early childhood. Phobias often stem back to shocks or traumatic experiences that occurred before the adult can even recall. The scars from spankings and physical punishment last a lifetime, whether or not there were any markings on the skin.
"If the slightest violence is offered to the child, then his psychic construction will be faulty," says Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori schools that specialize in a child-led method of education. "This delicate construction of human normality as it should be, needs protection."
Once a child reaches the age of five or six, their personality and psyche has been pretty well established. I'm well aware of this fact, thereby I strive to make every moment with Eleven count RIGHT NOW. I know that as young and new as she is, all she experiences AT THIS TIME is going to shape her viewpoint of the world, her beliefs about livity, and her knowledge of Self.
THIS is the period during which all we do with and expose to Eleven makes the most impact. Her definition of "normal" is being formed as I type this. I'm grateful her view of normality thus far includes lots of physical closeness and interaction with her parents, travel by air, land and sea, regular immersion in the sun and ocean, palm trees, clean air, coconut in all its forms, music, various accents, and brown-skinned people who look like her.
The way young babies learn and develop themselves is through absorption of the environment. Babies in the womb take on their mother's vibes energetically. From birth to about two years of age, a baby has an "absorbent mind."
"It is difficult for us to conceive the powers of the small child, but certainly it is a privileged form of mind," Dr. Montessori says. "You might say that we acquire with our intelligence; the child absorbs with his psychic life...Whatever is in his environment comes to be part of his mind: habits, customs, religion."
Your child "bad?" Take a look at the environment in which he was surrounded. It's the child who takes what is available and forms herself accordingly. The main credit we parents can take is via providing an environment conducive to absorbing the beauties and powers of life and culture. We physically feed our offspring, yes, but we don't literally build children up. We can't crawl for them, walk for them, talk for them. Children make themselves.
Our job is that of providing guidance AND getting the hell out the way.
Dr. Montessori also says that psychologists find that all a child accomplishes in her first three years would take a grown adult 60 years to achieve. (!!!) This is an example of the absorbent mind in action. The greatest example is the phenomenon of acquiring the myriad complexities of speech and syntax.
2-year-olds don't learn language because mama made flashcards or explained conjugation, articles, tenses and grammatical rules and exceptions. Babies learn how to speak by being exposed to speech in the pure, raw form of the culture. This is why they can easily become multilingual from jump as long as they are simply around the various types of speech--sign language and such included.
When I explashiate my vocal cords to my husband or someone else, I'll often notice Eleven observing me quite intently like I'm the most interesting thing in the world. She watches my lips studiously. I KNOW that in those moments, she's taking cues from me as to how speech is constructed.
Adults need to work much harder to fluently acquire additional languages, and still, once a certain age is passed, no subsequently acquired language will ever compare to the ease in which the babyhood mother tongue is spoken.
An African who's immigrated to America may sound more like a Yankee after a decade, but the African undertones will always be there. Conversely, w hen I hear American actors play African roles (Coming to America and the numerous biopics on Nelson and Winnie Mandela come to mind), the accents are NEVER convincing to me because I grew up around the real thing.
Speaking of African parentage, my own experiences with not being accepted as I Am inform my vigilance to not do the same thing to my daughter. My own mother, to this age, has incessantly projected what she wants for my life, rather than accepting the wildly fulfilling existence I've forged for myself. I understand why she can't let go, but I know better. I cannot excuse the toxicity that is her non-acceptance, and this is where the clash comes in.
I am certainly influenced by my nuclear family experiences for "better" or "worse" (although no judgment of any of it is necessary), but in truth, I owe the fabulosity that I Am today to myself and following my own independent desires beyond early familial influences.
Whether I choose to see my life as a story of triumph because of my upbringing or triumph despite my upbringing makes no difference. I know I made it out because of my own doing-- no one could have done it for me and I have ALWAYS followed my heart, whether my parents liked it or not.
"If I hadn't assembled myself I'd have fallen apart by now ...You should make amends with you / if only for better health / But if you really want to live / why not try and make yourself?" -Incubus, "Make Yourself"
Parents must realize that our children are not empty vessels to be filled up with our own projections and missed aspirations.
We produce the physical babe, yes, but the babe herself makes the person. It took effort and work to create my beautiful child, yes, but ELEVEN is going to do the work of creating herself into a sovereign, independent being. If I were to do it for her, she'd miss out on the beauty of autonomy and self-creation.
We choose our parents, and I know I was born to mine in order to obtain the skill-set for very specific objectives. And surely, Eleven chose me and Ephraim to be her parents because we can give her something no other couple could--something her own soul aims to experience in its evolution.
It's not up to me to project. It's my job to provide, inspire and guide; not to hold Eleven back with my ideals. I want her to be great, as all parents wish for their children, but Eleven's specific potential expression of greatness is greater than ANYthing I could possibly write for her. It's unwritten, and only she can fill in the pages.
Silver platters create laziness; strict indoctrination begets rebellion. Find the balance. Let go of desiring a mini clone of yourself carrying on your torch so you can vicariously live through them. Set them up for greatness, support them, and get the hell out the way. Providing tools and nurturing the creative, independent, working mind works wonders.
Our parental role is to remove the obstacles and instill the true knowledge that the sky IS the limit -- they WILL reach for it. Support and guidance encourages the formation of a beautiful, new individuated expression of All that is.
We are bringing forth the next generation. The root of a powerful human existence stems from conscious parenthood. It’s up to us to pay attention in our dealings; to be intentional and aware of how what we do with our young children today shapes the teenagers and adults of tomorrow.
The Montessori book I read is entitled The Absorbent Mind and you can download it for Kindle at Amazon.com. Here's a link to some noteable Montessori quotes: http://www.dailymontessori.com/maria-montessori-quotes/