When I’m feeling discouraged and need a little direction in this motherhood journey, I like to ask, “What would Caroline do?” By Caroline, I of course mean the venerable Ma Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie fame. (I decided that I’m old enough now that we can be on a first-name basis.)
I mean, didn’t Caroline just seem so wise, with all of her aphorisms and quiet advice? Just the other night, I remarked to my husband, “I think this is a case where ‘least said, soonest mended’ applies.” I just know I first read that that in some Little House book. And the best one, that I often repeat to myself, “This earthly life is a battle . . . If it isn’t one thing to contend with, it’s another. It always has been so, and it always will be. The sooner you make up your mind to that, the better off you are, and the more thankful for your pleasures.”
Anyway, a couple of months ago, I was all sad and gloomy because I was having trouble balancing my housework, volunteer work, and the playing/activities with the children, which we modern-day moms like to torment ourselves with. You know what I mean about the latter. I have dinner to prep, a sinkful of dishes, and a mountain of laundry to do, and yet I feel so guilty about “neglecting” my kids that I decide to get out the finger paints. Not that I never enjoy playing with my children, but I hate this pressure that I’m somehow setting my kids up for failure because I’m not doing enough art projects and science experiments with them.
So I asked myself, WWCD? And I decided that she probably didn’t spend all that much time playing with Laura and her sisters. Of course, it was a different time, and she could shoo her children outside to play without having to worry that some creep pretending to solicit magazine subscriptions was going to abduct them. But still. It seemed like it was a special, cool thing when they played pussy-in-the-corner on that wintry afternoon when Pa was away (On the Banks of Plum Creek). She must have taught them things, because the girls could sew and quilt and all that, but I imagine that it must have been part of their ordinary routine. And those girls turned out pretty well, right? I mean, Laura was a successful author, Mary went to college, Carrie worked in the newspaper business, and Grace went on to become a teacher.
I’m not saying that we should romanticize 19th-century pioneer life or try to emulate everything about our ancestors–especially if we’re getting our information from children’s novels. But maybe there are some lessons to be learned from those who came before us. And hey, if I mess up? It’ll never be noticed on a trotting horse!