The VigilanceVoice
Friday-- April 26, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 227

Courage To Kneel To Vigilance
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 26-- Sister Lucy is a tough older nun, one any Terrorist wouldn't want to tangle with.  I believe they make a big swath around her, looking for much easier, weaker prey.
        Sister Lucy runs a school that teaches a child how to fight Terrorism by becoming Vigilant.   She does it by teaching the parents of the children how to have the Courage to be Parents of Vigilance.
       I didn't realize that until last night when I attended a parent's meeting because my daughter and her husband and my wife were attending a class together, leaving me to become the "defacto" parent.   I packed up Matt, 5, and Sarah, 3, and trundled through the rain to the school located on 15th Street in the West Village.
      Sarah attends the pre-school now, and Matt did until this year when he shifted to a larger Catholic School for his kindergarten.   Getting into schools in New York City is like applying for Top-Secret-Crypto security clearances.  Next to finding a good apartment, finding and being accepted in a good school runs in a parallel priority.
      When you walk in the door of the school you are met with a picture of Vice President Dan Qyale, who visited the school.   Sister Lucy lets everyone know she is in charge, in a loving way, even in getting top politicians to come to her children's hostel.
       At first, I wasn't impressed the kids were attending a Montessori school.  I thought it was a place where a kid could do anything he or she wanted, kind of a free-for-all environment that allowed a child to have total freedom.
       Boy, was I wrong.
       Sister Lucy is a tough taskmaster.   She was ground out of a mold on the streets of New York City, and I'm sure carries a physical punch as tough as her comments.   She is what is commonly termed a "no bullshit lady," with the grace of a queen and the skill of a cobra.   She says what she thinks and doesn't think about what she says.   When you are in her "house" you take your hat off, and the arms of discipline strip you of any sense of revolution that may be brewing in your childish mind.
      Around her are a pack of skilled, loving teachers who have an iron fist covered in a silk glove.   They are not babysitters, but true teachers who recognize the art of molding a child's character under their tutelage.
      Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman physician to ever graduated from the University of Rome, opened her initial child care center in 1907 for children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome.   Her mission, as it has been passed down to all the teachers of her principles, includes the "training of character  and the preparation of the spirit."
      She based her teachings on three premises:

  1. Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
  2. Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
  3. The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.

Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials

    Last night, Sister Lucy was going through an agenda of items the school needed, primarily fund raising issues to install a better smoke alarm system, and reviewing the requirements for each parent that they offer 25 hours of help to the school as part of the obligation they assume when their child attends.    This forces parents to be involved personally, as well as bonds the parents and children as one with the school.
     But then, during the discussion period where parents asked questions, one mother raised her hand and told of how frustrated she was trying to get her child to do things.
     Sister Lucy's normally no bullshit  tone shifted to an angelic, motherly Voice.   She spoke softly, lulling the audience, extracting the maternal and fraternal genes in each of us with her words.
     "You must have the Courage of Patience with a child," she said.   "It is easy to just tell a child what to do, to take away the authority of the child to make the right decision for himself or herself.   You have to believe that inside the child is the right decision, and the child knows what is right, and tests you by refusing sometimes to do what you want.   It is easy to demand the child do things. It makes your life easier. You're busy, harassed, tired, your patience is worn.   You can snap at the child, drive him or her to do what you want.  But it takes lots of Courage to understand a child's natural instincts to rebel.  You must get down with the child..."
      Then Sister Lucy knelt down before one of the parents so that her eye level was equal to the parent's who was sitting...."You must get down...down to the child's level...become equal with the child...remove yourself from your authority of being taller, bigger, the mother, the father, and become the child's equal.  You look the child in the eye, at his or her level, and you speak from your heart...with the Courage of your Conviction...and you explain to the child what it is you want the child to do, and why, in a soft loving way."
      A chill ran through me.
      There was a stillness in the room.
      Then another teacher spoke.  She was from India, a large warm woman, radiating a glow as she spoke.  
      "Sometimes it takes us a whole year for a child to blossom," she said.   "Every day we have to tell him or her to pick this up, or put that away, or to not spill, or to not get angry, and we know that the child is learning slowly how to control himself or herself.   It is very frustrating, I can assure you," she stated, smiling.  "But you must believe the child is a flower with its leaves closed.  One day they will open.  One day the child will learn to blossom under your loving care.  And when they do, your heart will soar.  You will see the child let go of his or her rebellion, and when the child does this, all the times you knelt before the child to explain why they must do a certain thing will pay off.  You will know your child has evolved."
       It was then I realized what the Montessori school was all about.  They were teaching inner trust by exhibiting outer tolerance to rebellion.  How easy it is with a child to demand behavior, never kneeling down eye to eye in a loving manner to express to the child the concern one has for its development of self discipline.  It is much easier to set up rules and regulations and punishments if they aren't followed, and robotically force a child to adhere to certain standards.
      It was the word Sister Lucy used--Courage--that got me.
      I hadn't realized how much courage it took to be a Parent of Vigilance.  It meant the parent had to replace his or her Fear, Intimidation and Complacency when in the presence of a child, for these elements of human behavior tend to railroad over a child's needs.   Selfishness if all about my fear of taking time with a child when I have other more "important" things to do, and the child become a burr under my saddle.   Answering a child's repetitive question is a form of Intimidation, an assault on my authority that I often don't want to bother with.  And Complacency, the most common of all, is that child isn't getting the message, and I give up on trying to make the "flower blossom," thinking the child is in a rut and nothing I do will jerk him or her out of it.
        Courage.   I heard those words so clearly.  It did take real courage to replace my own selfishness with selflessness to kneel down and talk with a child on his or her level, to explain why I wanted the child to do a certain thing.
        I thought of all the parents who are in such a hurry to live life, and in the mad rush to maintain themselves, neglect the child's hunger to be loved.   What if, I thought, all the rebellion of a child was nothing more than a test of parental love, a test to see if the parent really cared enough to kneel down and softly, confidently share with the child on an equal plane the reasons behind the request?   
       Did children test their parents' love this way?   Were their questions, their rebellions, their seeming inconsideration of certain habits and behaviors just a ploy to see how much the parent really cared?  Were they nothing more than a cry from the child's developing soul for the parent to care?
       I decided they were.  Sister Lucy has had many children under her belt, perhaps thousands.   She was not one you would imagine kneeling down in front of a three-year-old who refused to put a block away and explain in loving terms why it was important to put that block away.  But I knew as she knelt and gave the eye-to-eye example of Vigilance, that she had many countless times done what she was demonstrating  here.
       I left the school with a lift.   I realized the Parent of Vigilance has a challenging job.  It requires much effort to replace one's selfish attitude of "doing what I say," to kneel down next to a child and share with a child the simple task of putting a block away.
      But I also knew that by doing so, the relationship between the lamb and the shepherd was only strengthened, the friendship between teacher and student only magnified by such an act of parental Vigilance.
      Could a child who knew his or her parents loved them enough to share with them on an equal level their reasons let a child live in the Terrorism of thinking they were not loved?   I didn't think so.   Instead, I saw the child blossom as a result of such courageous acts of parenthood.  
      I saw Sister Lucy as the Mother of Vigilance.


 Go To April 25--Some Heroes Have Fleas

©2001 - 2004,, All rights reserved -  a ((HYYPE)) design