Montessori Baby

The author, trained as a Montessori primary teacher (AMI), documents and analyzes her efforts to raise a "Montessori" baby.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sleep: 11 Months

A recent post to my earlier sleep entry has motivated me to finally put down some thoughts on this subject. I must confess, it is one that I feel I hesitant to write about for many reasons. First, I am often frustrated with the way sleep occurs in our household. Second, I am unsure how well matched my theories and practices regarding sleep are (and I am continually questioning what those theories are). All the same, it may be beneficial both to me and to other parents practicing Montessori to reflect on what's happening.

Unfortunately, Montessori's writings on sleep are limited (unless I'm not looking in the write places). I'll briefly summarize my interpretation of what she has written on the subject: parents too often force their children to sleep for their own benefit. Given the time period in which she's writing, I would guess that this was likely true, but is probably not the biggest problem facing parents today - or at least those who would be reading this blog.

Earlier, I wrote that I believed parents should focus on helping children to become independent in their sleep habits. I still believe this is true. The big question, then, is how do we do this?

The post that prompted me to write this reflection mentioned a very familiar scenario - it's naptime. Or better yet, it's probably beyond naptime. Baby/toddler is fussy, easily frustrated, rubbing eyes, lacking coordination - all the classic signs of tiredness. Yet he just won't settle down long enough to sleep. What to do? The writer then described something we've tried ourselves - put the child in bed, leave the room, return when he's banging on the door and crying, put him back in bed, repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Perhaps this method would have worked if my husband and I had the stamina to continue it. However, in my mind, something was missing. If it was really in his best interest to take a nap at that time, what would have happened if he had played instead of banging on the door? Weren't we really communicating that we didn't care what he did as long as he didn't come to the door crying?

I guess I've decided that, if I really want to communicate that it's time to sleep, I need to be by his bed. This is in line with my thinking that if he's exhausted and having trouble stopping his body from moving, he may need my help. While I'm there, my goal is to be "removed" - if he's lying down and he's quiet, I don't make eye contact and I try to be a still as possible. Other times, he might need me to pat his back or sing to help him settle in. The really tough times, he'll repeatedly sit up and I'll gently lie him back down and say something like "It's time to rest" or "Your body is tired." Still other times, I'll realize that I have jumped the gun and he really isn't ready to sleep. On the really good nights where we've gone through our bedtime routine or we've hit him at exactly the right moment, I can lay him down and leave the room while he's still awake. There's quite a range.

I feel okay about setting a limit around sleep because I'm careful to only do it when I'm certain that he's very tired or when our needs for sleep and his safety depend on it (like at 2am last night!). I also trust that independence will come with time and that it is fairly normal for him to be able to get himself to sleep some time but not others. Though I know my philosophies and techniques will probably change as time goes on, I feel fairly comfortable with where we are right now and the strategies we've chosen to help all of us meet our needs for sleep.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Update: Language Development

Recently, I wrote a post about the wooden letters I placed in a basket in Alex's room. Over the past month or so, I have been saying the letter sounds whenever he picked one up and explored it. Very recently, his interactions with the basket of letters changed. Our basket currently contains M, B, and S. Now, when he sees the basket he repeats the sound "muh" "muh" "muh" as he pulls out letters and shows them to me. As he pulls them out, I say the sound of the letter he's holding. I haven't yet noticed a pattern - if he stops when he reaches the "match" or if he is at all purposeful in which letter he chooses to take out - but will keep observing.

Alex has also begun to communicate through signs. So far, he seems to be only signing nouns ("light" "dog" "music" "water"), perhaps with the exception of "all done." He seems so excited to be able to tell us something. Interestingly, his sign for "light" also seems to be a sign for "what is this?" or a sort of go-to sign for anything unknown but interesting. It's an exciting new development and I look forward to seeing what else he will pick up in the coming weeks.

Returning to "Real Life"

When I was teaching, I found the winter holidays to be a much-needed break from the classroom. Often, they were also an excellent chance to reflect and make plans for the future. This holiday season was very similar for me as a parent. As Alex and I traveled, taking time off from our everyday life, I found myself looking forward with enthusiasm to the opportunity to make some changes upon our return.

First, Christmas refreshed our supply of toys, materials and books. I so appreciated my friends' and relatives' thoughtfulness in choosing gifts for Alex. They seemed to really consider his interests (and perhaps my preferences as well) when they shopped. This has had a very positive impact on our lives; Alex spends long periods of time concentrating on maneuvering beads along wire runners, fitting shapes into various containers, and opening and closing lids. He comes away from the tasks seeming grounded and satisfied, which is great for all of us.

The communication surrounding eating and nursing are still shaky for us, so I also decided to begin making a snack regularly available to Alex at his table between meals. I hoped that, in this way, he can be more independent about satisfying his need to eat. Though we still use a regular cup at meals, I offer him a small rubbermaid waterbottle with a built-in straw for his drinks and place finger foods in a covered dish on a tray to keep snooping dogs at bay. When he shows an interest in the food, I help him into his chair. If he begins to stand or to try to dump food on the floor, I ask "All done?" and remove the tray. Eventually, I hope to add a clean-up procedure that Alex can participate in.

Upon our return, we also reestablished our nighttime routine of spending the last thirty minutes to an hour of the evening in Alex's room with the lights low. Typically, my husband and I alternate every fifteen minutes to give each other a break and to allow Alex a little time with each of us. We have no set agenda during that time except that I will nurse at some point. This seems to work well.

Finally, I created some more space in my life to devote to the things that keep me healthy and happy both physically and mentally. Newly equipped with a jogging stroller, I take Alex out three times a week. I've mentally sketched out a few "fixtures" for each day that give it a sort of rhythm, and I'm committed to keeping the house neat - something that drastically affects my mood. By taking care of my own needs, I feel certain that I'll be better able to attend to those around me.

It seems to me that distance, reflection, and change are vitally important in Montessori and in life in general. I hope that the new routines and mindset that I developed over the break bring our family more harmony, growth, and satisfaction, and I hope that anyone reading this post finds restful breaks from life to do the same!