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We just finished reading Miss H’s first chapter book, Little House in the Big Woods. I have one captivated little girl! Laura and Mary grabbed her heart, and she loves to play out scenes from their life. I love how the inspirational ideas have planted little seeds of honesty, hard work, and love towards others. Miss H is not the only one who closed the book feeling inspired. Getting to take a peek into what parenting was like generations ago has my wheels turning. It made me think about how different parenting is now, as well as how much more we can do to fill up our days, so families end up doing less and looking at the likes of a family time guide to try and create meaningful family time together. I’m also pondering what I can take away from these parenting lessons from Ma and Pa Ingalls.
Parenting Lessons from Ma and Pa Ingalls
Chores: I recently saw a Care.com ad that showed a melancholy little face with a puffed out lower lip. She was sad because her parents were cleaning the house. The solution?- says Care.com? Hire a housekeeper! I wonder what Ma and Pa Ingalls would say about that. They literally worked from sunrise to sunset, almost every day. Their children didn’t complain that Ma and Pa didn’t play with them- they helped! Once Mary and Laura did their chores– and did them well- they were allowed to play. But they played together, and not under the watchful, hovering eye of a parent. Which brings me to the next lesson:
Downtime: Before bedtime, Pa played the fiddle or told the girls a story. This was the extent of how he entertained them. And if he was too tired from the day’s work, he just didn’t share a song or a story. The modern idea that good parents have to entertain their children All The Time is exhausting. And it’s not even good for kids. Many of Laura’s happy memories didn’t revolve around Ma and Pa- but on playing and discovering. I’m learning how to find the balance of engaging with my children, but also allowing them to play without me.
Meals: Along these lines of hard work, I started to think about the meals I prepare for my family. I so often throw something together quickly, hoping to make dinner in under a half an hour so I can get back to my kids. But the adult Laura remembered all the love and care her mother put into meals when she was young. Ma didn’t have to worry about her children eating too much sugar or salt or processed foods. Everything they ate was made by her hands, and was a result of her efforts. This is something I want to be better at- putting a little more time and love into what my family eats.
Simple is Enough
Stuff: Today, our houses are expanding to fit all of the stuff that we can’t seem to let go of. Laura and her family of 5 (at the time Little House in the Big Woods was written), lived in a couple hundred square feet. The idea that “bigger is better” never seemed to occur to Laura. With our new baby coming in a few months, two of our children will have to share a room. This is not something that happens a whole lot these days! After reading about the simplicity of generations past, I am happy that my children will have the experience of living in close quarters with each other. We might have to get rid of some stuff to fit one more child, but we can make do with much less! I want our lives to be filled with more of each other, and less stuff.
Gratitude: This simplicity was accompanied by a deep sense of gratitude for what they had. For Christmas, Laura received a doll. Even though her sister received fewer presents, and no doll, she didn’t complain. She was happy for Laura- and anyway, she already had a doll. There were no doll dining sets or pets with their own beds under that Christmas tree. This makes me think that so much of my children’s desire for more seeps in from society- and from me. What can I do to encourage a more simple, thankful heart?
Scheduling: This little family was together almost all the time. They each had their own responsibilities, but they had very few commitments to keep outside the home. Sometimes our weekends feel so busy with activities for the kids and other family events that I end up feeling less rested. When all our family time is spent running around and being entertained, I don’t feel like we actually had meaningful time together. A slower-paced life, like the Ingalls’ family experienced in the Big Woods, sounds like a huge blessing.
Socialization: Yes, I went there. Every homeschool mom’s most often received question: aren’t you worried about socialization? I wonder how many times Ma and Pa Ingalls were asked this question? I know that necessary skills have changed in the past 150 years, but it seems like the Ingalls still managed to raise some socially competent children. And this is without seeing other children, besides siblings, for months at a time. This makes me relax a little about getting my children around their peers multiple times a week.
A Day of Rest: I am kind of terrible at resting on Sundays. There aren’t many boundaries between rest and work for lots of moms of little ones! But the Ingalls’ were very intentional about this- as were most people in their time. They spent the day as a family, reading from the Bible and resting. All of the meals they ate on Sunday were cold, so they didn’t have to heat it up on the fire. While fixing a hot meal takes much less work these days, it would be nice to not scramble to prepare for the rest of the week on Sunday.
Authority: Ma and Pa Ingalls established such gentle authority. Laura and Mary knew that when they said something, it must be honored. They didn’t do this through harsh dominance. Their children felt their love and understood that some things were right and wrong. I want to establish this in my family, too.
We found this entire series of books at a local Goodwill store, and I can’t wait to read the rest of them with Miss H! I am sure the inspiration will keep coming!