Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Daddy Factor

The Daddy Factor: Can The Infant Care Gurus Stand Up to Paternal Instinct?

Kent is a natural daddy. He's a big boy. He can stand a little screaming-meemie time, is able to enjoy changing diapers, sings to the baby with abandon, catalogs her every breath in pictures and video, carries her around everywhere in his Baby Bjorn, and can't wait to show her off to all his friends and colleagues. He's the daddy for the new millenium. Sensitive, loving, involved, and working hard to make it a fifty/fifty, two-parent show.

So, can my Montessori Baby experiment survive him?

The Montessori Baby is "respected" above all. The gurus teach us how to demonstrate respect for the baby by how we touch and talk to her--mostly by giving her what is, to many parents' natural instincts, way too much personal space. We, the Montessori Baby club, speak to the baby in a natural, adult tone of voice, tell the baby what we're going to do before we do it (as in "I'm going to pick you up now." or "I'm going to put this fresh diaper under your bottom, can you help me by lifting your legs?"), and say meaningful, true, and respectful things to the baby, as if she could understand our every word--because you never know when she will.

We move slowly around the baby, speak softly, carry her "respectfully" and only sometimes, not constantly. We give the baby "space" in which to move her body independently. We give the baby time and loving support in working through her feelings (i.e. we sometimes let her cry) We watch her and broadcast her accomplishments back to her in a calm, not-too-impressed voice.

In other words, we are no damned fun at all.

Kent often handles Nuvy, our daughter, as you would a cute, scruffy dog. He raises her high in the air, then brings her very close to his face and wiggles her a little, saying in that puppy-talk voice, "Who's just the most perfect f-ing thing?", or "I love you SO MUCH, you f-ing little sh-t!" He bounces her and swings her to quiet her, dances her around the house, and generally has such fun playing with her that I can't bear to tell him that he's outside my experimental protocols.

I have a feeling it would sound like a big load of crap to him. He might be right.

Don't get me wrong. I am a true believer. I have drunk the Montessori Kool-aid. The kids I've seen respond beautifully to the methods, the baby-groups are unquestionably successful. So why can't I insist on his "respectful handling" of our child? I mean, it's impossible to tell if a one-month-old child "enjoys" one style over another, and that may not be relevant anyway. After all, don't we all "enjoy" ice cream over steamed broccoli, or a good movie over two hours at the gym? Does enjoyment make it better? Or am I some kind of sicko for "experimenting" on my own child by trying to raise her according to some wacky theory?

Will I lose my mind as I watch all my hard work in "respecting" my child come undone as she and her Daddy enjoy hours of natural, unschooled, scruffy-dog fun? Will I lighten up and give it a rest? Will she be orphaned after Daddy and I kill each other over disparate parenting strategies?

Stay tuned to find out.


Auntie Shoogs said...

OK, so does this mean I can't hold her for the ENTIRE tome she's here??? You suck.


testdriver said...

you can sit next to her and support her while she strives toward self-actualization...

ok. you can hold her a little.

Audrey McCormick said...

I know you are several years into raising your daughter now but I just found your blog and had to comment. You write so well, I can't help but be amused. I too am raising Montessori children with a dad that nearly so opposite. My husband has learned to step back on some things and let me handle them just as I've learned to step back on others and let him feed my boys vienna sausages and bug juice (liquid sugar with food coloring)occasionally. LOL! I thought he was going to come unglued when I put the monkey backpack on my first son when we went to the zoo after he started walking so that he could walk alone while I held the tail. Gabe said it was a leash, I said it was safe independance. My kids are 4 and 1 and so far, they haven't been scarred for life, just as I know your little girl hasn't been. Dad's are great for letting kids break free and get a little wild sometimes. My family's style may not be 100% Montessori at home but it works for us and we love it, especially when my 4 year old wears pj pants with a regular shirt to dinner becuase those are his favorites.