Growing Home - Joyful Children. Harmonious Families. Peaceful World.
I watched as, F, nearly flew down the trail ahead of me. I marveled at the lightness of his feet on the ground.
We had spent so many hours together that spring and summer already, as we began our new journey together. We left our home in Kingston, NH and my job at Hollis Montessori School and headed north, following Mike and the promise of a life in the mountains. It was a lonely time to move, pregnant and away from friends and colleagues, but the hope of a slower life rooted more deeply in nature seemed like the right choice.
Once boxes were unpacked, shelves were set up, and outdoor gear was sorted, the reality that my 3yo would be my primary source of daily entertainment and companionship started to set in. So to avoid, boredom and the slow insanity that ensues when spending too much time in an enclosed space with a curious and active preschooler, we headed outside.
We followed the sound of a stream and then the stream itself. We looked for fish and tossed in stones. We felt the cool water and talked about all the creatures that might live beneath the water that we could not see. We quietly explored the stream bed looking for treasures. We felt at peace to be alone, together.
On another occasion, we walked out the back door and found a network of trails waiting to be explored, we walked out the back door and found a network of trails waiting to be explored. We followed our dog on the meandering single track as it climbed higher and higher to the ridge of hemlock trees. The floor of needles beneath our feet was soft and springy. At a junction the trail T'd and headed down. F picked up speed. I watched as, F, nearly flew down the trail ahead of me. I marveled at the lightness of his feet on the ground. I wondered to myself, "What makes him so light and fast?" I looked more closely. Joy. Yes, joy. His body was filled with it. A pure feeling of freedom, no worries or cares, an intent focus, an internal sense of confidence and satisfaction.
Since that day, I have observed this joy come over him many times, mostly while moving quickly down hills, by foot, bike or ski, but also at other times. A newly designed Lego creation, the discovery of a natural wonder, through his love for his sister, a meal he has made and served. Watching him experience these joyful moments helped me to realize that there are so many ways children may experience joy and that they may be at times that we do not expect.
As Maria Montessori observed in some of her first years of working with children in a classroom setting, the adult cannot give children joy, satisfaction, or confidence, they can only cultivate an environment in which the child can discover these things for themselves through opportunities for self-sufficiency and respect of the child's work in both time and space. Her research has withstood the test of time and in more recent work by Alison Gopnik she describes how parents need to focus more attention on being gardeners and not carpenters when it comes to creating relationships with their children. One must provide all the necessities for growth and well-being, but not try to mold their child into the vision they have for them.
So, this week, in a quest to grow your home, notice and ask yourself these questions: When do your children experience joy? What role did you play in that moment or leading up to it? What can you each day to help cultivate joyful experiences in your home?