Educate To Life - Montessori Notes

What is a Mum for?

This is the question my daughter came up with lately. I was puzzled.

We take it for granted right? That our children know that we love them unconditionally, that we will not leave them, and that they see what we do for them every day (and night).
However they need to process, revise, verbalise. Here's where books can help us a lot.
My daughter's provoking question was a sincere interrogative coming from the awareness of her increased physical independence.
When they are little we take care of them constantly, they ask for our help most of the time.
Then as they grow up and learn to get dressed on their own, to use the toilet, to prepare themselves a snack, even to play independently, the 'help' that we give them changes.
This happens through life, and I think it's great to acknowledge this change.

So although I am not a celebration type of person  (call me a snob:), I thought Mother's day would actually be a good occasion to share some of the books about mums that we have read.
They don't necessarily celebrate mums as such, the ones below are all books that I bought during the years to face different separation anxiety phases (how many are there? One million in the first three years of a child's life??)
The 9-month and 18 month separation anxiety phases, the first fights for independence at around 2 (don't call it Terrible Twos, independence is exciting and scary!:) and then starting school, the birth of a sibling, maybe moving house or city (or country), or just mum or dad away on a work trip. Many things can break the routine and trigger anxiety at that age.

Young children under three need attachment and comfort, they thrive on totally positive, reassuring stories. Nurturing a secure bond with the primary caregiver will foster their self-confidence and independence as they grow up.
That's why many title focus on pure, straight forward reassurance.
Then there are a few 'irreverent' titles which I introduced later, as my eldest daughter was a bit older, to start discussing stereotypes related to motherhood.

I hope you will find the book that works for you among these ones.

Little One [Piccola Orsa] [2016]
by Jo Weaver
Reading age: 2+
Themes: Attachment
Mama bear and her little one venture out of the den as spring arrives: Little bear has everything to discover and to learn, and she can explore safely under her mum's eyes. When winter comes back they both walk home and curl up together for another long winter sleep.

An ode to maternage, a lyric narration on stunning realistic black&white illustrations. There is no separation here, it's a totally reassuring story where the mother's love for her cub through the seasons is real and strong, and couldn't be more natural.

Nell'erba [In the Meadow] [2011]
by Yukiko Kato
Illustrated by Komako Sakai
Reading age: 2+
Themes: Nature, Getting lost
 A young girl is spending a sunny day in the countryside with her family and ventures in the meadow. 
She is distracted and enchanted by the nature around her and gets lost. She feels scared for a second, but she realises that her mum was just there and had always kept an eye on her.

Stunning, airy, impalpable illustrations and a short, delicate, dreamlike story that reassures while encouraging adventure and independence.

Owl babies [I tre piccoli gufi] [1994]
by Martin Waddell
Reading age:1+
Themes: Separation, Dealing with anxiety, Siblings, Feeling safe
Three little owls wake up in the middle of the night and realise that their mum is not in their nest. They know that she leaves to hunt for food, but they start overthinking and worrying. As they list all the terrible things that might have happened, they also stand one next to the other to seek comfort, until she comes back home.

A classic, gentle story that all children will love to read again and again, choosing their favourite baby owl they can identify with.

Five minutes peace [Cinque minuti di pace] [1986]
by Jill Murphy
Reading age: 2+
Themes: Fun, Motherhood, Learning about private spaces, Being alone
It's a regular morning: three little elephants are enjoying their messy breakfast as usual, but their mum decides to do something crazy. She wants to have her breakfast alone in the bathroom.
Will she manage to have her five minutes peace? Of course not.
She will get 3 minutes and 45 seconds, and not all at once:)

A classic story full of humour that is fun to read both for parents and for children.
Any mum can of course identify with Mrs Large and her dream of privacy in the bathroom, while children are amused by the three demanding little elephants on one side and intrigued by the plan of their mum on the other.
How is it even possible that she desires to be away from her children?
A great first book to softly introduce the ida of personal space to little ones.

No Kiss for Mother [1974] [Niente baci per la mamma]
by Tomi Ungerer
Reading age: 4+
Themes: Independence, Testing Behaviour, Making Peace
If there is one thing that Piper Paw hates, it's being kissed by his mother, especially in public.
As they stretch to the breaking point, they both finally settle on to their own new communication level, which does not involve kisses.

An irreverent, grotesque portrayal of maternal love and of its suffocating deflections on one side and of children grumpiness on the other. An inspiring and funny tale about how to learn to express love.

Piggybook [Il Maialibro] [1986]
by Anthony Browne
Reading age: 3+
Themes: Motherhood, Gender Stereotypes, Family
A mum tries to keep up with her two daily jobs: she feeds a family of four, does the laundry, dishes, cleans up before heading to work. 
She looks invisible to her husband's and sons' eyes, who take her work for granted, until their nature will be revealed as she decides to leave. 
She will come back, and things will change for everyone.

'You are pigs'. Anthony Browne's irreverent metaphor for gender stereotypes couldn't make it clearer.
Although the situation Browne describes is of course extreme, surreal and anachronistic, his caustic portrayal of family patterns can help talking about roles and workload allocation in the home (children included:).

My Mum [La mia mamma] [2005]
by Anthony Browne
Reading age: 1+
Themes: Mother's love
My mum could be a dancer, or an astronaut, she could be a film star
or the big boss. But she's MY mum. She's a SUPERMUM! And she makes me laugh. A lot.
I love my mum. And you know what?
(and she always will)

A book that plays with stereotypes, a tribute to all mums filled with Browne's usual visual humour.
It's an all time classic, really fun to read for both parents and children. The imagery will instantly resonates with all little ones mythologising parental superpowers, finally reassuring about their unconditional love.

I love you the purplest [1996]
by Barbara M.Joose
Illustrated by Mary Whyte
Reading age: 2+
Themes: Siblings, Parental love
A mum and their two sons leave their cabin to go fishing on a summer afternoon. The two boys have different personalities and approach things in different ways, competing with each other for their mother's attention. At bedtime, the fateful question arrives: 'Who do you love best?' 
Mama explains that she loves one 'the reddest' and the other 'the bluest', and that she loves both 'the purplest'.

A celebration of parental love and of the unique qualities that make every child an individual.
This books help to find words to explain to children that a mother's love for their children is equal, but different, as they are necessarily developing as different human beings.
Beautiful, warm illustrations with a vintage-feeling.

The Kissing Hand [1993]
by Audrey Penn
Illustrated by Ruth E.Harper & Nancy M.Leak
Reading age: 2+
Themes: Parental love, Separation, School
Chester Raccoon has a problem: he doesn't want to leave his mummy and go to school.
So Mrs Raccoon tells him the 'secret' of the kissing hand, she kisses his child's paw and and says 'Whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think, 'Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you. And that kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warn thoughts'.

A simple story that works as a mantra for young children facing first separation from the mother.
In 2007 the National Education Association named this book one of its teachers' top 100 best books for children.
This one is slightly overly sentimental for my taste, but the children liked it:)

Runaway Bunny [1942]
by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Clement Hurd
Reading age: 1+
Themes: Parental love, Testing behaviour
Little Rabbit decides that he is big enough to run away from his mum and be independent. Mummy rabbit though, tells him that she will always be with him wherever he goes.

A sort of visual prequel to 'Goodnight Moon', this is another reassuring story with beautiful black&white illustrations interrupted by colour to mark the search of Mummy Rabbit for her little one. An ode to maternal love which can also accept and embrace challenging and limit testing behaviour.

Mama, do you love me? [1991]
by Barbara M.Joose
Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
Reading age: 2+
Themes: Parental love, Testing limits
An Inuit girl tests her mother's love speculating on all possible mischief she might do.
But her mother's love is unconditional.
'I will love you forever and for always, because you are my Dear One'.

A charming tale about a universal theme enriched by information about a fascinating culture and by vibrant watercolour illustrations.

Ah, in case anyone is wondering...I actually did not reply to my daughter's question, I honestly don't have an answer, and probably I shouldn't be the one answering.
After a few weeks I asked her:
'So, what's a mum for?  What do you think?'
'A mum is for everything' - she said.


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