Everything I know about mothering I learned from children’s literature


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Everything I’ve learned about being a mother comes from children’s literature. Take the best of all natives, Mrs. Walker: her unflappable cheer, her willingness to take part in their games without taking over their games, her breadth of understanding and love for each of her children individually, her emotional sensitivity, her willingness to hand over important responsibilities to her children, her ability to tell stories about her own childhood.

Or how about Dickens’ mother? She is so poor she can’t afford three square meals a day for her children, yet her house is the most emotionally warm, charming, and clean, and the one everyone wishes to be in. When she has a little extra money, she buys a jump rope for a child she doesn’t know, but believes to be spiritually and physically ailing. She holds firmly in the belief that being outdoors as much as you can will bring health and vigor.

Who could forget Marmee’s gentle guidance, unwavering devotion, and selfless example? 

Trusting your children with important responsibilities and with entertaining themselves is a common theme: The Railway Children, Milly Molly Mandy, Noisy Village, included with the books above. I’m sure there are many others in this vein, but these are the ones I know and love the best.

In the Railway Children the mother must endure the hardship of making ends meet, and earning money, while her husband is falsely imprisoned. Though she is clearly saddened, she does not despair, but sets to work doing her best.

The gifts given in these books are of a pleasingly practical nature. What joy when Milly Molly Mandy’s little attic room is revealed, or likewise, Lisa’s Noisy Village bedroom, away from her pestering brothers. The utter thrill over torches and a pocketknife in Swallows and Amazons! The heartfelt devotion over Marmie’s gift of the “little books” that lead the girls on a path of righteousness!

The mothers in these books are unfailingly kind, loving, perceptive, trusting. They believe in wholesome foods and the wholesomeness of being outdoors, and that children are interesting, capable beings, always striving to be better people. They bestow affection, calm, confidence. 

Everything good I know about mothering, I learned from children’s literature. My greatest hope is that my tombstone reads: “Best of all natives”.