I've gotten a lot of questions about the choice to switch to a big boy bed so early.
Q: "Why would you do that? I want to keep so and so in their bed until they're five!"
A: I feel that this switch is an important one for many reasons. This is a switch that is best done earlier one. Like weaning off the bottle, you want to do it before they become attached.
I believe in Montessori philosophy. For those of you that know me well, you know this is a Pandora's box that, once opened, is hard to close. I could seriously talk for hours on the beauty of Montessori education, but that is for another post, my friends.
In Montessori education, the most important thing to keep in mind when working with children is that you always teach the child a way so that they can become more independent and less dependent, more confident in their own actions, more trusting in their own world. In each step, you think to yourself, "Am I doing something in this action that my child could be doing for themselves? Am I taking a step (or learning process) away from them?" By giving them this freedom, you are giving them wings. You are granting them the power to learn and proceed as they wish in the world.
A very important thing in this philosophy is providing the best learning environment for them. This means providing small tables and chairs so that they can climb into them easily, storing toys and materials at their level so they can reach it as they wish, keeping stools around the house so they can stand higher and reach the sink to wash their hands by themselves. It's looking at the world around you and thinking about how they can access it. Adults often say that children can't do certain things. Or they underestimate them - if you leave the stool in the bathroom, they will make a mess. Or worse, they will do it wrong. This attitude effects children. Think about it, if you had to ask someone to get something for you every time you wanted it, wouldn't you feel defeated like you couldn't do it? If they make a mess, teach them to clean it up. Guide them to do it right. Give them wings.
(See what I mean, Pandora's box.)
In the child's bedroom, it is essential that you provide this environment for them. Here's where the bed on the floor comes in. You create a safe place for them, where the whole room is a secured and childproofed area. Consider it a big playpen. You put the bed on the floor and it allows him to get up and move freely as he wants to. He may wake up at three in the morning, he may play for a little bit, and he may fall asleep on the floor. I am okay with this. (It is spring here and okay to go without blankets) I know that if he wakes up, he will learn quickly that the bed is more comfortable and that he will find his way back to it. I know that he is in a safe place. I know that by giving him the freedom of his movements, he will gain trust in his own actions and he will possibly learn faster.
This environment also comes into play when designing the child's room. Many nurseries and child's room these days reflect the taste of the parents. Even if the parent is thinking of the child when purchasing Winnie the Pooh wall decals, it usually serves as a distraction to the young child's sleeping needs. It's important to keep the room simple, quiet, and peaceful. A chair for rocking, a mattress, a small shelf with a few board books, and a mobile is all the child really needs in the room. (And not even all of that.) When decorating the room, think about what the baby could be doing when they wake up. If the room is filled with toys, especially loud toys, they will wake up and be stimulated with loud music and have trouble getting back to sleep. If there are pictures on the wall, hang them low to the ground and secure them well so the small toddler can see them and get to know the pictures. Rotate the pictures occasionally so that they can learn more. If there are shelves, have them low. If there is a lamp, don't make it a floor lamp or you're asking for trouble. Think about the child. Think about their needs. By giving them the bed on the floor, you are allowing them the freedom to learn faster. The freedom to learn at their own pace.
And that is why I love Montessori. It gives kids wings. It gives them the freedom to learn and to grow.
I received a lot of faces when saying that I was going to make the switch so young. Most were respectful, wondering why. But I got some of the "Mom faces" where the forehead scrunches down, eyebrows up, and mouth in a scrunched up disapproval. This is usually followed by the question asked above. I don't want to get into my long answer above, so I just say that Liam is a climber (which is true) and that we don't want him falling (which is also true). It's hard to explain something that is different without sounding condescending, without making them feel small. I don't feel like I am right all the time. I don't feel like I have all the answers. I sure as hell know I don't in fact. And I sure as hell don't know what is best for their family or their child. There is so much crap and so much guilt that comes from being a parent. We are always disagreeing with each other, looking down at each others decisions. It is so hard being a parent, and there are so many pressures and things to worry about. Is little Sarah teething or does she have an ear infection again? Should we do antibiotics? Should we do herbal remedies? Does she need tubes? What about those pedophiles? Last time I check we didn't have any too close to our neighborhood, but I should really check again? And where are my damn keys? My personal problems are finding that balance between guiding Liam and intruding on his learning, letting him learn from his own actions and letting him go too far, and choosing my battles and staying consistent on them.
My point is, we all have our issues. We all have our guilt and our pressures. We all understand this. You are not wrong and I am not wrong. We are all doing our best and we will all make mistakes. And if we don't put our kids in therapy for the thing we are doing to them now, we will put them in therapy for the things we do later. My point is, that we all love our children and that is the most important thing.
So the next time I receive the Mom face or get advice that I did not ask for and do not welcome, I will smile and nod. I will know that that person is doing their best and means well. And I will know that we will all be fine, toddler bed, crib, or mattress on the floor.