Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Little Women (My Own Meme!)
Last spring, Sweetling read some excerpts from Little Women in her Classics for Young Readers anthology. I remember, vaguely, reading the book sometime around 4th or 5th grade and not being impressed. In fact, I remember finding it rather dull and tedious to read. And Sweetling wasn't that taken with the excerpt she read either. But Mommy, who read the excerpts so we could discuss them, fell in love with the story. I told Sweetling how I hadn't liked it when I was younger. I explained for her, in more modern language, why Jo's sacrifice of cutting her hair was such a huge sacrifice for the time. I talked to her about how she would feel if her Daddy was gone for a year, and then became very, very sick. That perspective seemed to help her appreciate the story some more, but the original language and writing style still wasn't something that interested her. I, on the other hand, decided I really needed to reread Little Women. And then I never got around to checking it out of the library.
Last week at the library, I stumbled upon the volume by accident and brought it home with me. The edition I came across is called "The Whole Story" and has historical and cultural notes and illustrations in the margins to help a younger reader understand the context of the story. (Smurf, I would fail at the "More Victorian than You" game. I still had to look up "dress-circle" and "poplins". I can't find "tarleton" other than it being, i think, a kind of fabric.)
Yesterday afternoon I read the chapter "Jo Meets Apollyon". (And I also now need to read Pilgrim's Progress.) Some words that Mrs. March speaks to Jo really made me stop and think. Speaking of learning to overcome her own quick temper and hastily spoken words, she says, "I must try to practise all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example."
And I was forced to wonder, what example am I setting for my own children. What do they learn from watching me? And what do I daily model for them?
If you are a mother, and you are reading this, I'd love to hear your own reflections on this topic. Would you be so kind as to take a moment to write about this in your own blog, and leave me a little note to let me know you have done so? If you're not a mother, but have some thoughts either about what your mother modeled for you or what you might like to model for your children someday, I'd love to hear those as well. My own reflections are rather long, because I lean towards the verbose, but I'd love to read some other entries about this, whatever length or format suits you best! (I'm not clever enough to make a linking graphic for you to copy, so sorry! But you're welcome to either use my graphic or none or your own, or whatever.)
My first inclination is to dwell solely own my own faults and follies. But I want to be honest and productive in my answer. Though everyone has shortcomings, to take this as an excuse to beat myself up for what I am not doing, would be to miss an opportunity for true self-reflection. So instead, I'm going to begin with the beginning of our day, and think carefully through what I do and say.
First, I know I'm not the best at getting up in a timely manner. But, despite this, I usually have myself ready for school on time and have the basics of my morning housework done as well. Yes, there are exceptions to this when I'm sick, or when we all stayed up late, but those are exceptions not the rule. More importantly, my children now get up and start completing their morning lists without needing reminders. They are usually ready to begin the school day on time. So, I think I can say that I'm modeling the importance of getting up, getting ready, and getting basic responsibilities attended to first thing. And, on those days we fall short, we still get up, get ready, and get our basic responsibilities tended to and start school as soon as we can.
Sweetling and I both do our devotions in the morning. We used to sit and do them at the kitchen table together as we had breakfast. But now that Sweetling has decided to read through the Bible a chapter at a time, she takes her Bible and curls up on a chair in the living room to read her chapter. I still sit at the kitchen table with mine. I start my devotions by writing a list of seven specific things I am thankful for that day. Sweetling still loves to come and read my list each morning. Then I write down which scriptures I am reading, and I jot down a sentence or two about how the scriptures spoke to me specifically. Sometimes, I'll write a verse on a yellow post it note and stick it to the bathroom mirror, so that I can remember to reflect upon it during the day. I think I've set a good example for Sweetling, but I know I need to be better at helping Toa of Boy with his devotions. I need to find some way of working devotions for him into the busy morning.
I know during school that I model many different qualities. Independent learning is a big one on the list, and it is something that Sweetling has nearly mastered. The importance of reading is clearly evident in our house, not just during school time but all the time. And both Sweetling and Toa of Boy are blossoming in their love of books. Writing is likewise modeled and valued. I spend time on blogs and on creative writing projects of my own. Sweetling spends hours writing her own short stories and participating in discussions on Webkinz Insider. Toa of Boy keeps his own journal (with Mommy's help. He sounds out the first letter of each word, and I fill in the rest of the word.) Even though his last two entries were, "I D[on't] W[ant] T[o] D[o] S[chool]," and, "I D[on't] W[ant] T[o] D[o] J[ournal]," he is delighted with the ability to put his thoughts and opinions in writing.
Creativity and self-expression are valued, praised, and encouraged in their development. Toa of Boy will be the first to tell you that he is a great artist. Sweetling will agree that she is creative and unique and that she has her own style. And of course no one who has ever met me even in passing would deny that I'm one of those "creative types." Spontaneity, joy, and playfulness are also qualities that I readily, easily, and daily model. In fact, I asked Sweetling last night as I was brushing her hair after her shower, what sort of qualities she thought I taught by example. Her first response was, "that it's okay to be silly sometimes."
Thankfulness and recognizing the blessings in our lives is another lesson I think I'm managing to hand down. Yesterday morning, I was on the phone with Vaya. We were discussing how long we each had been without power after the windstorm last weekend. Vaya had gone without power for a week. I said that we had been very fortunate in that our electricity was only out for 26 hours or so. "Yes," added the Sweetling, who was as usual listening in, "and even then we still had a gas stove to cook on, and a phone that didn't need electricity to work, and hot water." I am pleased that rather than dwelling on the crisis of the storm, Sweetling immediately recites the many ways we were spared. It is our practice as a family, before each meal, when we give our thanks, we each find one new, specific thing to thank God for. I think there is great value in focusing on the many gifts we have, rather than dwelling predominately on what we have not.
Which then leads to how we share our blessings, and how we demonstrate compassion and kindness to those in need. This is one area I wish I was doing more regularly. It isn't that we don't do this at all. We pray for those who are going through hardships. Both children help select clothes and toys to put in give away bags when the charity trucks come through the neighborhood. Anytime I make a dish to take to church for a funeral, or a meal to deliver to a family who's experienced a birth or a serious illness, I try to have the children help in the preparations. When we're at the grocery store, there are specific deals I take advantage of just so that I can take the items to the church food pantry...and I'll ask the children to find the item on the store shelf, telling them why we are getting it, just so that they are participating in the sharing. Still it seems like all these ways are sporadic and infrequent. Not regular or routine.
I'd like to say I demonstrate good sportsmanship. And that's true to some extent. We are very conscientious about telling each other 'good game,' and meaning it, whether we win or lose. We congratulate each other for our successes, even if we haven't shared in the victory. Watching the Olympics, I made sure to point out to Toa of Boy how the athletes shook hands after the events, no matter how they had placed. And yet I also do dances of victory when I beat the Jedi in Wii Mariokart. So, still an area I can improve upon I suppose.
And sadly, there are many areas in which I demonstrate lack of follow through. Every summer, I give my children the chance to witness first hand what becomes of a garden when its neglected. And at least one week out of the month, my children have to go rescue underwear from a laundry basket downstairs, because I never got around to getting the clean laundry folded and in baskets to its respective owners.
Neither do I demonstrate punctuality. Oh, I try, but I'm also well-known for my perpetual tardiness. (I think I'm getting better, but I'm no where near consistently on time. Its so sad when as we leave the house, the five year old always asks, "We late, Mommy?")
But I overflow in demonstrating love for my children and my husband. I'm free with my words of affection and with gentle hugs, quick kisses, and playful tickles. We will never be the most punctual family, and we don't have the tidiest of homes, but we have a very caring family and a loving home.