Life is Short

simon reading

Simon Douglas-Dufresne

I am sitting in a kitchen in Peru and a lovely woman named Maria is baking break in a wood stove. Andean flute music is playing. A tranquil scene however Maria and I have just finished hugging and crying as we look at pictures of someone we both loved. Her employer, my friend, Simon Douglas-Dufresne. He died 6 days before I was scheduled to visit him here in Peru. Tragically, it was in a plane crash which his children witnessed. I visited with his wife, Ileana, who crashed with him, convalescing in Lima before coming to their beautiful home in the mountains of Cajamarca. She is grace personified.

Simon & Ileana

Simon, Ileana and Rex, 2014.

Aren’t they lovely?

We all skyped together in the time leading up to this visit and Ileana and I bonded over our love of children. She and Simon have an adorable 6 month old, Alfonzo.


Ileana and Alfonzo, May 2014.

When I got to the house, I broke down to see and feel so many of Simon’s touches everywhere. He was a fabulous builder with great style and this house in Peru is like so many others that he built. His contractor, Sebastian, who has been helping Simon build heat & hot water stoves for the Peruvian people, broke down with me, as he was showing me around. Another stranger I hugged and wept with, our hearts breaking.

Simon was much loved. He was one of those larger than life characters we were all entranced by. He was an adventurer and he led his friends on some of the biggest adventures of their lives. We met 31 years ago and always had a friendship, never a romance, nonetheless, some of my most interesting memories were made with Simon.

Yet what I’ve been struck with all week as I’ve wandered around his hacienda, seeing his beautiful plans for the stoves sitting on the table, his shirt on the hook ready for him to return, is the body of knowledge that went down in an instant in that plane with Simon.

You see, Simon had built 11 wonderful, beautiful, fantastic homes. Some had been featured in magazines. He loved to build and create and he was a true artisan, craftsman, and entrepreneur. He loved to solve problems and he was good at it. And all of that knowledge built up in his 51 years of living is gone.

When he was 19, I got him a job on a pig farm in Missouri (yes, I know – that’s the kind of friend I am!) because he had heard that he could get school credit from his agricultural college in England for working on a farm and anyone who knew Simon knew he would JUMP at that chance. I recently heard Simon at boarding school referred to as a “caged animal” and I knew exactly what the person was saying.

Simon and Kate 001

Simon and me in France, 1983.

You see, Simon was raised in Kenya, Africa. He was third generation Kenyan – growing up with scenic unblemished vistas as far as the eye could see. Simon did not like to be contained. Sitting at a desk listening to someone lecture would have been torture for him. But on that farm in Missouri he learned about electric fencing and went home and fenced in the Masai Mara, the wild game preserve in Africa. He loved to learn on his own and apply that learning to solving problems. That was his life’s work.

So I’ve been thinking about Simon and his knowledge and it occurs to me anew that life is short. We are each unique and have a body of knowledge that is exclusively our own. I too am a lifelong learner. I love to solve problems. I like to acquire information, sift through it, take what I want, and leave the rest. Though I am Montessori teacher trained through elementary school, my true passion is the 0-3 years. I have educated myself in this area thoroughly and will continue to do so.

I have learned many different philosophies and paradigms as regards children zero to three. Through it all, I embrace what resonates and I leave the rest. This has left me with my own unique take on young children. Maybe for others, my understanding of parenting, child development and education will resonate. Especially, though, for my own children. If I die tomorrow, who is going to help them raise my grandchildren? If not to improve the next generation, what is the point of learning?

So I’m committed anew to sitting down and writing about the things that are important to me with regards to children birth to three years old. Last night, here in Peru, we had a lovely, wine and candlelight dinner on the porch with a new friend, Ms. Magnet, who is the teacher of Simon’s children. Many laughs, many stories, but when it came to my work and I explained some of my philosophy, this young woman who has not had children yet said she hoped I would write a book because, though she didn’t know the right way to do it, she knew that many of her friends were raising their children in ways she firmly did not want to! The children were needy and dependent. The parents were anxious and tired. She senses there is a better way. And I have to agree! This is for all the Ms. Magnets out there!

Magnet in Cajamarca

Magnet & Scott in Banos Del Inca, Peru. July, 2014.

I’m going to start first with the topics someone contemplating being a parent needs to begin thinking about. I believe it’s important to begin your parenting philosophy even before you parent. This then becomes your life philosophy because, let’s face it, parenting becomes your life, at least for a while. These topics also happen to be some of the most controversial decisions you will have to make and you might as well begin to form an opinion on: Natural Childbirth; Whole Foods for Pregnancy/Healing/Children; Circumcision; Breastfeeding; Cloth Diapers; Vaccinations; Tummy Sleeping; Attachment Parenting. These are 8 topics but because I’ve already written the post on Tummy Sleeping, I will write the others in the 7 days left in Peru. Because my vacation plans went topsy turvy once Simon died, I really have nothing to do but sit by the fire in his beautiful hacienda and contemplate life.

Luckily I have wonderful inspiration in the form of Maria’s (the cook) son Anthony. I mean, seriously, I am IN LOVE! Wouldn’t you be?

Anthony at table.


About katepflynn

International Montessori teacher (birth to 12 years), RIE Foundations Course graduate, and Infant Development Specialist teaching Bradley Childbirth, Parent-Infant (pre-walkers), Parent-Child (walkers) and Toddlers.
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4 Responses to Life is Short

  1. Tammy says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this….

  2. skyehotmailcouk says:

    Hello it’s really interesting that you are a Montessori teacher. My mum and Simon’s dad were cousins and I wonder if you knew that Simon’s grandmother worked with Maria Montessori in Italy for several years?!
    Best wishes
    Skye, feel free to email me if you want to know more

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