We have a saying in 0-3 Montessori called “open the door slowly.” This refers to allowing a child to slowly acclimate according to his developing sensory system. First a child develops a nursing relationship with his mother first (which Dad protects). Then the baby includes Dad in his knowledge of his family dynamic and this may be the extent of his relationships for a 6 week lying-in period. At the same time he is acclimating to the room, its noises and temperatures and smells, where he will be sleeping. Then he begins to meet neighbors and extended family. And he ventures out of his room into the rest of his house. Soon he goes out into his community and begins to see how things are done there. He is slowly being introduced to things at a rate which his sensitive system can take in and process new information. For babies for whom this truly happens slowly and thoughtfully, it can be overwhelming to go somewhere with too much noise or light.
When I see a baby who is truly raised in an “open the door slowly” way, it is astounding the difference in their thoughtfulness and capacity to practice self control and self discipline. Why is that?
Yet babies who come into a world where they are being taken everywhere without regard to their developing sense systems it can be very jarring. Do you know what happens after a baby is circumcised? I know this because I worked in a newborn nursery and saw many of them. They cry a cry unlike any you’ve ever heard (it almost disappears, it becomes so shrill) and then they go to sleep. Often when we take newborns out, they go to sleep. What about a new baby attached to a body which is always moving, and taken everywhere that adult goes? He may learn to shut down in the face of all that stimulation. And then he will desensitize to it.
In my experience, these are the children who are not “in their bodies.” This is my own expression for children who “bang” materials loudly or thrown them. Those whose bodies are always moving and tripping and upsetting furniture. Those whose depth perception is so off they start bracing themselves for an encounter with a piece of furniture 4 feet away. They seem not to know where their bodies are in space.
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton has a book called Infants and Mothers “where he describes three different infants and their temperaments so clearly that no matter what kind of a baby you have, you will find your child somewhere in the book. For a first time mother in the newborn stage, when variations of sleeping, eating, and temperaments are so different, it is reassuring to know that the one in your crib is as healthy and normal as the rest.”
So yes, babies have different temperaments and some are more sensitive than others but for all of them, we can be sensitive to the fact that they have come from a quiet, dark place into a bright noise filled world and they need to grow accustomed to this at their own pace. They are benefit from “opening the door slowly.”
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