Why I’m Dreaming of Montessori at Night

Grrr.  Where do I start?

Winter quarter is right around the corner, and it’s shaping up to be one of the busiest on record:  I have not one but two articles due to editors before it’s over, I’m teaching an elective (granted, that I’ve taught before, but I’m changing it up — this is the last time I can teach it as a special topics course before I have to add it to the curriculum in order to teach it) and another course I wanted to revise a bit, and I somehow got suckered into agreeing to an independent study with a student who is smart but not independent enough.  And now this.

So on Friday, we had our parent-teacher conference with Toby’s Montessori teacher.  With no warning, she told us that we have the rest of the month of December to potty train Toby or she won’t let him back into the school in January.  As if that weren’t bad enough, she gave us a ration of BS about how at 32 months he hit the moment where he was ready to be potty trained and now it’s harming his psychosocial psychosexual development and it’s all because he’s overprotected.  She said that now that he’s behind he’s likely to be holding his feces and manipulating people and the school by refusing to go in the potty and that he cannot go on in his cognitive development until he’s potty trained.  She also mentioned that “I’m telling you this because I know you’re “natural.””  She recounted her degrees and brought in Erik Erikson and Freud (that crackpot!  How much clinical work did Freud have under his belt?  okay, I don’t know) then told a long story about a girl who was dripping poop all day and it turned out she was being sexually abused.  When I asked Lionel later what the point of that story was, he posited that she was trying to explain why she didn’t want the liability of touching kids’ privates anymore.  (There is a bit of a cultural difference that definitely affects communication in this case and makes it difficult to understand the subtleties.)

Now, I know they had a big blowout with a child who ended up peeing on the floor “in retaliation” for being upset about something (this child has slight autism) the day before.  But I don’t think that she can realistically say that Toby is trying to “manipulate the school” by using diapers.  In fact, during her long diatribe about all this, she didn’t mention any actual thing that Toby did.  Just that he’s definitely going to have problems because he’s not potty-trained by this point (about 38 months).

I immediately went home very upset and began a big potty-training propaganda campaign with Toby.  But later when Toby said he had to poop (he runs into his room and closes the door in order to poop alone in his room), Lionel and I had to drag him to the bathroom.  He sat there looking at books for a long time, but no go.  Later on, he said he had to go again, and I dropped what I was doing to rush him to the bathroom and Toby was screaming no.  Lionel mentioned to me that he was worried that Toby’d end up constipated if we kept on dragging him to the bathroom when he didn’t want to go.  And I was pissed at Montessori B**** because everything I’ve read says that you shouldn’t make a big deal out of potty training because you do more harm than good in pressing them before they are ready.  I don’t know how it’s good for his psycho-whatever development to be dragged to the bathroom and develop a kink in his colon (a Potter quote from M*A*S*H — you know Harry Morgan died last week at the age of 96).  I asked Lionel what he thought, because he’s been wanting Toby to get himself potty-trained for ever and really tries to talk up potty-training and talks down diapers (which I wish he wouldn’t do because I also think shaming is counterproductive).  And he said he thought that Toby just wasn’t ready.  And so we defied Erik Erikson and this B**** in favor of going “natural” (GAHHH!) and now have to look for a new care situation for Toby now, in December, because it’s not like I have time off in January.  And of course lot of places may not even have space for him.  I changed my work schedule around for this place, so we’re stuck with full-time care.  Oh I am so pissed.  I even dreamt about it last night.

But I am slow, you know, in the head, because it wasn’t until yesterday when I saw her Facebook message saying that kids need to have “fully mastered” potty training by the time they return to school on Jan 3 that I realized she was kicking us — and the three other kids in the class still in diapers that she had, I guess, mistakenly let into the school — out.  There’s no way that we can fully master potty training in the three weeks she gave us.  There.is.no.way.  All of her BS about how children progress at different rates, and it’s the American parents who push push push in order to see that development?  BS.  I totally respect that she has the right to say that she doesn’t want kids in diapers in her small school.  She wants to change her policy.  Fine.  But she did it, as Lionel said, totally without tact, making it sound as if it were me and my “natural” parenting and how I’m really harming him somehow by. . .what?  not dragging him to the toilet?  Not strapping him to the toilet?  What?   And in doing it the way she did it, she is totally f***ing us over, because this is a very bad time of year to be searching for a new situation.

I have gone from upset to angry to totally raging pissed.  I have actually prayed to God to help me stop thinking and obsessing about this.  We’ve already figured out which places we’re going to call — I hope they have space.  That’s my big worry, besides the usual ones.  There are tons of daycares, but we’d prefer a Montessori that has a toddler program.  Switching daycare is just the worst because, you know, he’s my son and I want him to be well-cared for.  I’m hoping that maybe we can find a Montessori that isn’t quite as strict as this one, because it occurs to me that Toby really may need to bond more with his caregivers rather than the colder atmosphere of strict Montessori.  Since we don’t have family here and Toby doesn’t have that many people in his life, a little more love would be great.  The great thing is that everyone adores Toby wherever he goes.  He’s pretty adaptable.  But I hate putting him through this.  I hate it.  And I hate that I need to work so much in the next two weeks (note to self:  get things done early because the last minute is not going to be available anymore because that’s when the sh*t hits the fan though really some of my work could not have been done early:  committee meetings and trainings and things that I didn’t schedule) because I’d really like him out of that b****’s care, and I can’t imagine how I’m going to be nice to her when I drop him off and I know she’s going to explain it again and again and I’m going to have to say something, when I really want to say that I wouldn’t let Toby stay there if he spontaneously potty-trained himself overnight because she’s really shown her true colors about how she feels about respecting children’s development in her copious explanations rather than just saying that she’s made this new policy and she’s sorry but this is the way it is.  I’d like to say: “I can’t stay to talk because I’m too busy looking for better daycare situations,” but I want her to take decent care of Toby for the next two weeks and pissing her off is not conducive to that.

We’re getting a Christmas tree today and hoping to have nice family time.  My obsessing about all this is not helpful at all, especially as there’s nothing to do over the weekend and we already have our plan.  I suck at mind management.  I’m just pissed at her and would like to tell her off.  I’m working on it.

This must be a blessing, right?  An opportunity to find a much better place for Toby, who is all that matters in this equation.  Still, I didn’t need this right now.  If she had done this last month, it would’ve been better for me.  I wonder what the other parents are doing.  I can’t help wonder what one of the helpers (a mother of two Montessori students there who helps out who really adores Toby and has told me so though she’s not supposed to and the B**** told her not to talk with the parents about their kids) thinks about all this, especially as I saw that B**** is advertising on FB for a helper who is “dependable (not a parent of a student).”  Is there fall-out to this decision?  I can’t believe I’m going to drop him off there tomorrow morning.

Those of you who are moms:  am I courting disaster by not pushing potty-training more?  (When Toby said he had to poop just now, I said what about going to the bathroom and he bellowed “no.”  But I was four.  Four, when I finally was potty-trained.)  I’m getting the no-cry potty training book from the library.  Sigh.  I’m full of hate.  How do I transform the anger and fierceness I feel into family love and togetherness?  I just want to growl at the b****!

Comments, ideas, thoughts welcomed.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Um… yeah, that teacher sounds messed up, and the school sounds messed up. The idea that kids manipulate is always a red flag for me– that is SO not Montessori. Montessori is all about getting kids to do grown-up things for their own sakes, and there can be no manipulation. (Unless it’s joking about your kid being so adorable ze can wrap someone around hir little finger, but that’s different.) Psychosexual development is a creepy thing to be talking about with a preschooler.

    I would definitely start looking for a different school.

    Re: potty training, we really went with the philosophy in The Diaper Free Baby. It’s all about making potty training less stressful and giving the child agency. Again, it isn’t a struggle if the kid is potty training for hirself instead of for an adult.

    From his reaction in your last paragraph, it sounds like he’s been traumatized with potty training. And that keeps a kid from training. It does sound like he’s physically ready, but he’s come to associate it with bad things. He should train up in no time once he’s away from that teacher.


  2. well that is about as eff-ed up as I’ve ever heard, not to mention pretty damn anti-Montessori as I understand it. Fingers crossed that OVER THE FREAKIN’ holidays you can cram in finding a suitable daycare!

    Neither of our kids’ were PT until after three because you know why? We couldn’t do it during the semester, obviously, so it had to wait for a break in teaching. I am not a fan of the “there is an X period” for PT, but I know that over at G.G. recently there were some PT book on the “books that changed your life” thread, so maybe check over there.


  3. That teacher is a quack and you have a right to be mad. No teacher should give 3 weeks notice for something like this. And that is certainly not the Montessori way.

    What happens when Toby wears underwear? Does he just hold it or does he go in the undies? Maybe if he has a pee-pee doll that he trains to potty first he will see the positive part of it? Of course I have no experience in this since my child is not PTed… Everyone keeps telling me that children need to be given time to potty train and not to push it… As far as the constipation part of it, that can happen if he holds it but our ped suggested all non-constipating foods if this starts to happen so it makes them harder to hold it. We had a period of time when Little T was freaked out by pooping and refused to go in the diaper – the potty – anywhere. The book Everyone Poops helped as well. The ped also told us that for some children it is a psychological thing because kids don’t understand that poop isn’t a part of them and they get upset because they think they are losing a part of themselves. I guess they don’t see it in the diaper so they don’t think this way. We had to show her the poop in the diaper and get excited when she went – then we dumped it in the toilet and flushed it as she watched. She is over the poop issue now so those things helped us. Sorry I have no advice related to potty training and only to poop 🙂


    • Posted by waytogohomesteader on December 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

      Thanks so much for your supportive replies! It really helps, because it’s so easy for me to get all caught up in my own worries about being a bad parent and then have little perspective. From this and a more recent experience with the teacher which I’ll blog about later, I’ve come to realize that these people make me crazy. But what’s happened this week is that we’ve found not one, but two good places for Toby that are willing to deal with taking him to the potty on a regular basis so he gets used to it. Not one, but two pretty supportive places! Now we have to choose which one. (It’s a great blessing to be able to choose, but also a nightmare because one is, undoubtedly, the better educational experience, but the other might be better for him right now because all the kids in the class go to the potty together at regular intervals so it wouldn’t be just him. That positive peer pressure would, I think, help him. But I don’t feel as good about the overall educational experience. There are also practical factors, like we will be moving from this area in 6 or so months and driving him here will be a major hardship, while the better educational experience is near my work and so won’t be changing with any moves. We’re still talking about it.)

      Anyway, we’re lucky, very lucky. And his old Montessori teacher, who I must admit did a great job with him since he’s so perfect in a Montessori context that everyone else is delighted to have him whether PT or not, is totally whacked.


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