follow the child: how Montessori philosophy helps me parent during developmental delays
Logan is walking! At just a few days short of 16 months, I can confidently say that Logan walks more than he crawls, and we are thrilled to see him explore the world in this new and exciting way.
I haven't shared much about this online, but Logan has shown some delays in his gross motor development, which we've been keeping an eye on along with our pediatrician and our local birth to three organization. While these delays have been relatively mild (he didn't crawl until 11 months, and is now just starting to walk at 15 months), they have been enough to bring a bit of anxiety into my day-to-day, causing me to worry about whether I'm doing enough as his mother to give him the best start I can (oh hi, mom guilt!).
Especially as a first-time parent, I constantly worry whether my child is hitting milestones "on time", which results in nasty comparisons to other children, negative judgments of my own parenting, and doubts about my child's capabilities. This serves as a much needed reminder that comparison truly is the thief of joy, as it has me focusing on the few things Logan can't yet do, instead of the dozens of things he's already great at and the inherent joy that lives in his tiny body.
Montessori philosophy dictates that, above all, a parent or guide is there to follow the child, as children are inherently drawn to the tasks that they need most at that time:
This has served as a constant reminder for me that my child is wise in ways that I don't always understand, and that the challenges he is seeking will unfold on their own unique path. For Logan in particular, this has meant a strong interest in fine motor tasks that started around 5-6 months old, and has resulted in fine motor development that is typical for children much older than he is now. Since he's been dedicating so much of his own self-formation to this huge task, he's let gross motor development take a backseat for a bit because it just wasn't his #1 priority. Now that he's getting older, walking, climbing, and other gross motor activities are more interesting to him, and we're seeing him dedicate a lot more of his energy to those now. We also find him spending less time with the items on his shelves. This is fine, and moreover, this is expected. It's also a gentle reminder to me that the more time I spend observing my child's needs, and the less time I spend focusing on my own guilt, anxiety, and fears, the better off my child will be.
These observations allow me to follow Logan, and provide him with a home environment that meets his unique developmental needs. Previously, this has included some opportunities for gross motor work, but emphasized the fine motor tasks that he is so drawn to. Now that this attention is shifting and many of these toys are left on the shelf, I'm rotating them away and providing him with an opportunities to focus on his gross motor development. This is also true for when our child leaps ahead of what is "typical" developmentally, following the child should lead us to providing developmentally appropriate challenges while removing judgments about what is "normal" or "typical". Finally, following the child reminds us that our children are human, just like us, which means that they will have strengths and weaknesses, just like us. And they're going to play to their strengths, just like us.
We're very fortunate that, so far, Logan's developmental delays seem to be entirely tied to his motivation and his inherently cautious nature rather than more serious medical issues. We're also very fortunate that we our pediatrician and local birth to three organization are just as invested as we are in our son's grown and development. If you are suspicious that your child's development isn't following a typical timeline, do not hesitate to bring it up at your next well-child visit. Birth to three organizations provide local services all over the United States, typically at no cost or very low cost to the families that need them as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).