I'm pretty sure that rereading the Little House on the Prairie books is irrevocably fu#king with my parenting.
I mean, I LOVED these books as a kid but I just have to laugh at their well-mannered protagonists now. As Z said the other night in the middle of Farmer Boy, with its earnest, perfectly behaved Almanzo: "Did they really work like that? ALL DAY? With no play? And no whining??" In between explaining the effort required to run a family farm and the expectation that children were seen and not heard, it all starts to seem so foreign to both of us as to strain credulity. On Sundays in that Little House on the Prairie, Laura and her sisters had to sit quietly and not run or play or talk loudly. For a whole day. Is that even physically possible?
I don't know about you but I'm pretty sure my children would spontaneously combust if that was required of them.
Plucky Almanzo works his tail off from dawn till dusk with nary a complaint or disciplinary action. And I can barely get my children to clean up their wad of plastic toys when I ask very nicely with my big girl words AND promise a favorite snack at the end of it.
Were the children of the Little House era a completely different
species from the modern day, singing, twirling tyrants that inhabit my
Little House in the Suburbs?
Were they running on hot and cold FEAR of beatings?
I'm fighting this feeling that I must be doing it all wrong. The parenting books that I like, that resonate with me and my values, are all about playful, connected, positive parenting. I'm all about parenting through love and connection and firm but non-punitive consequences.
I'm pretty sure Ma didn't make up special songs or games or resort to outright bribery to get her daughters to help out with basic chores on a daily basis. And did they really never whine? EVER?? I've come to think of whining as a perfectly normal, expected 4 year old tone of voice.
My girls' modern first-world lives are certainly cushy, probably much too cushy for our naturally self-centered brains to handle. Though I require an ever increasing contribution from both of them, these "chores" are laughable when compared to the real work done by Laura and Almanzo and their cohort.
Perhaps what I really need to be doing is throwing my girls out back
with a hoe and a bag of seeds and working them till they drop. But that's about all I can take away from these books.
Because, let's be honest, there will be no fear-mongering or beatings here. Unless you count the beating of my own head against the wall.