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Ask the Girl

Morgan Sprinkle | Brevard, NC

My son is four. He’s known for a lot of things—his boundless energy, his enthusiasm for life and the people he loves, his adventurous spirit and the way he wakes up ready to attack the day with gusto.

But self-control? Yeah, he’s not known for that.

Impulse-control? Not his strong suit.

A gentle, tentative, approach to life? Not my kid.

Until, that is, he became a student in the Owl class. Montessori classrooms are known for the way the teachers model a sense of calm and mindfulness that the students come to emulate. my son’s teachers encourage him to slow down. They speak lovingly with him about how to use walking feet, take a deep breath, find peace inside himself and treat his classmates with true kindness. Our bull-in-a-china-shop-child has practiced slowing his body, controlling his impulses and asking his classmates if they’d like a hug before going in for the embrace.

Just the act of asking someone first has had a profound impact on the way my son approaches life. He sees that everyone has a right to personal comfort. Everyone deserves to be able to accept or decline the affection he so loves to share. It’s hard for our little space-invader to hear “no” but it’s also so good for him. There is a pause now, between eye contact and intense hugging, that gives his classmates the space to decide for themselves whether or not they want one of his “super, super, super squeezy hugs.”

My husband and I have seen this slow progress, but it wasn’t until a singular incident recently that we were able to fully appreciate it.

My husband sings to my son before bed each night. His songs are a compilation of Doc Watson, Beatles classics and Disney songs.

One night, as my husband was getting to the chorus of the Little Mermaid classic “Kiss the Girl” my son interrupted him. He said, “No, Daddy, that’s not right.” My husband explained, “No, buddy, those are the words.” But my son insisted he was wrong.

“That’s not right, Daddy. That’s not respectful. You shouldn’t just kiss the girl. That isn’t kind. It’s her choice whether or not she wants to be kissed. You need to ask her first. Can you sing that instead? Ask the girl?”

In the wake of our culture’s struggle with what it means to be a man, I want to commend my son. But I also want to commend his teachers. Their daily teachings about respect and boundaries have undoubtedly had an impact on our son. My little space-invader. The boy who used to delight in popping people’s personal bubbles is now re-writing the stories we tell him and the songs we sing.

His teachers are creating a culture of respect. They’re teaching my son (and all the boys, and really, all the girls as well) the important lesson of following the wishes of others. They’re teaching him to slow down, to be mindful, to practice peace.

They’re teaching him to ask, and listen, and perhaps to re-write some old ideas.

We like his lyrics better.

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