Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Lesson from Little Women

What we call "read aloud" has been part of our homeschool from almost the very beginning.  In reality, we most often listen to stories on cd so I can drive or work in the kitchen instead of falling asleep while trying to read.  ;-)

The girls and I recently enjoyed the Melendy Quartet, and are now speeding through Little Women.  I know the book backwards and forwards, having read it multiple times when I was young.  I love this novel!  The characters aren't perfect, but they are trying to be truly good, so following their adventures and mishaps is edifying as well as entertaining.

This time around, I'm focused more than before on the mothering side of the story.  Sometimes Marmee echoes my feelings; at other moments she sets me a good example.

I was struck by a conversation she had with Jo, who bemoans her quick temper and is surprised to discover that Marmee struggles with hers, too.
   "Mother, are you angry when you fold your lips tight together, and go out of the room sometimes, when Aunt March scolds, or people worry ?" asked Jo, feeling nearer and dearer to her mother than ever before.
   "Yes, I've learned to check the hasty words that rise to my lips; and when I feel that they mean to break out against my will, I just go away a minute, and give myself a little shake, for being so weak and wicked," answered Mrs. March, with a sigh and a smile, as she smoothed and fastened up Jo's dishevelled hair.
   "How did you learn to keep still?  That is what troubles me--for the sharp words fly out before I know what I'm about; and the more I say the worse I get, till it's a pleasure to hurt people's feelings, and say dreadful things.  Tell me how you do it, Marmee dear."
   [Her mother used to help her, then her husband, but it was easier before they were poor, with four young children.]
   " . . . then the old trouble began again; for I am not patient by nature, and it tried me very much to see my children wanting anything."
   "Poor mother!  What helped you then?"
   "Your father, Jo.  He never loses patience,--never doubts or complains,--but always hopes, and works and waits so cheerfully, that one is ashamed to do otherwise before him.  He helped and comforted me, and showed me that I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example.  It was easier to try for your sakes than for my own; a startled or surprised look from one of you, when I spoke sharply, rebuked me more than any words could have done; and the love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy."
Some take aways for me:
  • I must model the behaviors and faith I want my children to embrace.
  • A confidant and helper is invaluable, and my husband is the best choice for this role.  Fortunately for me, Len is more than up to the task.
  • My children don't seem startled or surprised when I speak sharply.  :-(  On the positive side, when I do apologize, they forgive me readily and don't seem to have taken it to heart.  Hopefully they know how much I love them and that blunts the sharpness a bit.

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