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Who She Is

October 6, 2011

I had a profound conversation yesterday.  I spoke to Sailini, who owns/operates the montessori school Brynna attends.  The crux of our conversation was this: So often, kids spend 18 years reacting to the stimuli placed in front of them and then another 10 years trying to figure out who they are when someone stops giving them something to react to.  I know that’s kind of randomly deep for a Thursday afternoon, but here’s why it’s stuck with me.  It’s true!  From the toys we give them to the songs we sing to the parks we take them to…we are trying to get that giggle of laughter that only comes from a happy child.  But what we miss when we don’t turn down the noise is the quiet moments.

When Brynna walks into her montessori classroom there is no welcome wagon.  There is no morning cheer or loud music.  She has learned, along with her classmates, the routine of putting away her lunchbox, hanging up her coat (yes, it’s already coat weather in DC) and changing into her inside shoes.  There is a group time where they sing and interact but then it’s time to choose their work.  With not fanfare, she does just that.  No one says, “Brynna, we are going to read.  Brynna, now it’s time to sing.”  She decides.  What it’s produced in my tiny two-year old is amazing.  Parents, brace yourself.  This is going to hurt.  She’s her own person!  Brynna doesn’t choose the “work” I would choose.  (I know.  I was as shocked as you.)

The quiet moments often don’t come until we are out of high school, sitting at a job or on a college campus when we suddenly realize…Who Am I?  Really.  Aside from what I’ve done or where I’ve been.  What Am I?  When no one is there to grab my attention and focus it on a particular thing, what will I choose?  Each day, Brynna is learning to make choices and the result is that we see who she is aside from what we want her to be.  (…or is it just me?  Maybe I’m the only parent who has a picture in my mind of who my child is or should be.  Maybe I’m the only one who tries to sway her to like the teams I do or the colors I prefer or the songs I sing or the stores where I shop.  Maybe it’s just me…)

At two years old, Brynna has learned what it took me almost 30 years to discover.  She knows who she is.  And I have to say…who she is is pretty fantastic.

Please note: This is not an attempt to “plug” montessori education or imply that something different is wrong.  I was a public school teacher and I often built into my classes a time of just being quiet for a moment.  Many teachers do.  It’s not a matter of private vs. public education.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong parenting.  It’s a matter of allowing kids the space to be just that – kids.  Giving them room to learn who they are and cheering that person on to greatness.  (Even when that person is different than we imagined.)

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