Today it feels like too little too late but I’m super excited to share with you the beautiful Crysta Bloom – The Kind Cocoa Mama – and her family and how they incorporate Montessori into their lives. Crysta lives with her husband, Ezra, her daughter, Epiphany (16 months), and their cat, Mala (3yrs old). They live in New York City but will be moving into an old home in Upstate New York.
I’m a new follower to their family and Crysta’s work and I enjoyed going back in their feed to read about how they consciously parent, how they create intentional play spaces, and a lot of wisdom about pregnancy and birth. I encourage you to also read “DEAR MAMA OF A WHITE CHILD” and “DEAR MAMA OF A BLACK OR BROWN CHILD” which Crysta speaks to here as well.
I hope you learn a lot from this interview and be sure to keep following along on Instagram.
1. How has Montessori helped you and your family?
Montessori has helped me develop a relationship of trust with my daughter. I have seen her innate ability to direct her own play and create her own learning experiences. I know that she doesn’t need me to “teach” her in order for her to learn. I don’t question her process. My job is simply to facilitate and create opportunities for her to blaze her own trail. Montessori has also given me the privilege of witnessing her unique genius. I am aware of her special gifts as well as the places where she struggles. I have seen her nurture her own abilities and I have seen her diligently practice the things she struggles with until she masters them. I know that I can trust her direction.
2. What are some of your favourite Montessori activities to do with your child?
Lately I’m really enjoying activities that encourage my daughter’s independence with practical life skills. My daughter has some mild sensory and gross motor delays so this is a budding area in our home. She loves to practice drinking from a glass. We are beginning to involve her in watering the plants, adding detergent to the washer, and filling the cat’s water bowl. I love to see the prideful amusement on her face to know that she plays a role in sustaining our family’s household.
3. How do you set up your home to help apply Montessori at home?
My daughter’s room consists of a Montessori bed, shelf, and climbing gym. I also have simple baskets in most rooms of our house with materials for her to explore.
4. As a parent, do you wish you would have done anything differently?
As a new parent I didn’t think that I was allowed to trust my own judgement. I thought “I’m new at this, I don’t have any experience, I should rely on the experts to tell me what to do”. I found myself out sourcing a lot of parenting decisions to the doctors, teachers, and elders. That was until my daughter was diagnosed with a Profound Hearing Loss at 6months old. “She’s deaf,” they told us. Immediately she was put on track to receive a permanent surgery that would allow her to hear using a Cochlear Implant device. This surgery would also erase any existing residual hearing that she had. I wasn’t devastated — being Deaf is just another way of moving through the world — but in my heart I knew that it wasn’t true. I sat in many Audiologists’ offices advocating for my daughter. I did not have the expertise of the professionals but I knew my child. My daughter is now 16months old. She talks, dances to music, and sings. She is not Deaf. I was chosen to be this child’s mother and I can trust my intuition.
5. Any daily, weekly, or seasonal rhythms you enjoy?
I love to rotate my daughter’s shelf activities. It is such an enlightening process to observe her throughout the week to see what she is interested in mastering, then creating opportunities for her to practice her developing skills. I enjoy seeing her reaction when her shelf has been recreated. What will she go for first? How will she explore in new ways this week? How can I facilitate and nurture her growth better next week? I am so inspired by the joy that learning brings her. I admire her gentle determination and quest for new possibilities. She is an explorer. Every week she sets out for a new adventure and I’m excited to be her co-pilot.
6. You wrote two beautiful posts on Instagram “Dear mama of a white child” and “Dear mama of a black or brown child.” What message would like to pass onto readers?
Throughout my childhood I learned how to behave — how to dress, talk, sit, smile, wear my hair — in order to stay safe in America. By the time I left home for college I had a manual downloaded in my head on how to soften my edges and water down my presence in order to be easily digestible in white spaces. I knew that I was going into a world where I would have to defend my humanity. I was prepared for this at great length. My parents had given me the same warnings and tools that they were given by their parents. This is the childhood experience of most black and brown folks in America. Much of it becomes a very painful unlearning or relearning process in adulthood. And the most frustrating thing as a person of color is to go out into the world to learn that your white friends NEVER talked about race as children. Healing our country’s trauma of dehumanizing black and brown people does not belong to communities of color. White people, especially white parents, must reckon with their privilege and implicit bias and teach their children to do the same. Otherwise, if we do not commit to breaking this cycle with the next generation of Americans, we are destined to stay trapped in this infinite loop.
7. You have lot of wisdom from your work about pregnancy and birth. Can you share one piece of advice you would give to all mamas to be?
I am in the process of becoming a certified birth Doula because my hope is for all birthing people to reclaim our power. When I gave birth to my daughter I witnessed the full glory of my body. I was in complete awe of myself and I established a deeper level of trust and love for my vessel. That is what birth can do. It can be a spiritual, transformative, life-altering experience but only if a woman feels as though she is fully in her power throughout the process. Whether you give birth at home or in a hospital, naturally or medicated, vaginally or via c-section. This is YOUR birth experience and anyone in the room — doctors, midwives, nurses, doula, birth partner — are there to facilitate YOUR vision. Ultimately we cannot control the way our birth plays out but we will remember if we were given choices, our voice was heard, and if we were given all the information needed to make informed decisions for ourselves and our baby. Start by writing a detailed birth plan laying out all the details of how you would like your birth to go and distribute it to every single person that will be in the room. Also, if you are birthing at a hospital, bring your own gown. There is nothing like putting on a hospital gown to make you feel like a sick patient. Wear something of your own that makes you feel good. If you’re thinking “Am I allowed to do that”? remember that this is YOUR birth and everyone in that room is there for you.
8. Anything you’d like to add?
I cherish my lovely Grimms nesting boxes and stacking rings, however I love that I can also search my jewelry box for beaded necklaces and wooden bangles then head to the kitchen for a few bowls, scoopers, and measuring cups- I can create a beautiful Montessori set up with things found in my home. I appreciate how accessible and customizable Montessori can be. It is wonderfully inclusive. At least it should be. Montessori has the potential to benefit children from all walks of life and all abilities. So I challenge us all to stay mindful about the Montessori spaces we are involved in. Are they diverse? Do these spaces seek to include children, parents, and educators across all cultures, races, and abilities? Take notice of your instagram feed, playdates, and classrooms. Does everyone that you are learning from and learning with look like you? Let us offer our children a colorful, rich learning environment full of opportunities to expand their understanding of the world and their role in it. This is the sacred work of the parent.
Thank you Crysta for your beautiful words and being an inspiring family to us all. You can find Crysta here on Instagram.