Hurry! We don't want to be late.
We arrive at the grocery store at 2:00.
Hurry! Get in the cart.
We arrive at church on Sunday morning.
Hurry! Class is starting in a second.
So much of our life seems to be hurry, hurry, hurry.
Last Thursday I spent three hours in the atrium with my fellow catechists. As we are beginning our new year, we decided to revisit a few basics to make sure we're showing the children a consistent way to perform ordinary atrium tasks -- cutting, pasting, pouring, polishing.
When you want to polish silver, first you find a work space.
Then you you place your mat on the table.
You unfold it and smooth out the wrinkles.
You get the basket of materials and walk slowly back to your work space.
My first introduction to the Montessori way of moving -- slowly, deliberately, methodically, doing each task step by step -- left me frustrated. Chaffing, really. I mean , no one moves like that. Least of all me.
Take out your materials. Place them carefully on the mat. Slowly. Left to right.
No one moves like that.
It's true, our lead catechist told us. No one moves like that. And that's why it's important to give our children a place of quiet, a place of thoughtful movement, a place of peace.
Somehow this clicked with me in a way it hasn't in the eight or ten years I've been doing this work. Maybe it was because I had become so aware of how often I tell my sweet four-year-old hurry, hurry, hurry! Right then and there, I planned to spend a slow, quiet afternoon with Ainsley.
We came home, and I pulled out a few vases. We walked to our patch of Zinnias. I held the stems as Ainsley snipped them. The vases were dusty, and instead of washing them myself -- quickly, efficiently -- I asked Ainsley to get the stool. She stood at the sink and scrubbed them clean.
We decided the short flowers should go in the short vase and the tall flowers should go in the tall vase. Ainsley sorted the flowers into two piles. We noticed that the pink flowers tended to be tall , and the yellow flowers tended to be short.
Ainsley put the short vase on her tea table.
Over the previous few days, I had been working on completing the Level II Maxims. These are twelve sayings of Jesus that the children reflect on as they prepare for First Communion. We print these on mottled parchment paper using a pretty script and then burn the edges of the paper and decoupage them onto tablets.
John took one look at the tablets and totally wanted a treasure map. I googled Pirate Treasure Map and clicked Images. He stood at my left, spotted the screen full of treasure maps, and started laughing with a glee unique to six-year-old boys. He spent the afternoon drawing his own pirate map and came to find me when he had finished.
"Come on, Mama," he said. "We're going to go on a Quest!"
(A Quest! Can I bottle him up and sell his zeal and vim, his unbridled fire and his boundless exhilaration?)
I peered at the map and recognized the over-sized climbing tires in the huge backyard we share with a dozen other families. There was a trail to follow, and, as every good pirate knows, X marked the spot. I was heading out the door to a neighbor's house, so big brother Tim graciously stepped in, and the Quest was on!
Yesterday I toured the atrium with a mom who is new to this approach to catechesis. I explained the parables that are pivotal works for the youngest children and those that speak to the older ones. We pulled out the pouring materials in the practical life section. We begin with dry spooning, move on to dry pouring, and then advance to wet pouring. Slowly, carefully, left to right.
As we toured the Level II atrium, we noticed Ainsley had discovered our last supper figures. They are beautiful, colorfully painted figures. Ainsley moved down the line of apostles offering each one the patin and the chalice.
Christy commented that any child would be drawn to use materials like that.
We talked briefly about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in the home. While I have brought a few materials into my home, I've never attempted to recreate the atrium under our own roof. I'm fairly certain I have neither the space nor the finances to accomplish that feat.
Sometimes I find this frustrating.
I spent many a summer working with the Missionaries of Charity. And if they had a motto, it would be Pray hard; work hard. Many of us left our weeks with the sisters disappointed that we were unable to incorporate three to four hours of prayer, Mass, and adoration into our ordinary lives. Nearly all of us eventually stumbled on a spiritual director wise enough to point out a simple truth: God will meet you within the unique blessings and demands of your life. Translation: You're not a Missionary of Charity.
And I don't live in an atrium.
I do attempt to pull aspects of order, pieces of beauty, and moments of quiet into our regular lives.
But I don't live in an atrium.
Parents who are intentional about family life can be tempted to look with disdain on the Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! aspect of our lives. I would be the very first person to say that our activities -- all of them --require discernment and that an eye toward simplicity is an essential part of this evaluation.
But, in truth, a large part of Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! is simply an unavoidable by-product of a full life, really of a blessed life, a life I waited for, a life I prayed for, a life I do not want to pass by too quickly.
And when it gets to be too, too much -- as it inevitably does from time to time -- I need to work hard to apply the brakes.
I can make treasure maps with John.
I can cut flowers with Ainsley.