The latest book Jack and I read together was "On the Banks of Plum Creek", which is the 4th book in the Little House series. I knew I would love this series, even though I'd never read any of them until just a year or so ago. I always loved watching this series on PBS when I was a kid, and I remember thinking "I want my kids to watch this show". I even went so far as to start a VHS recording of the episodes when I would catch them. Who knew I would be able to get an entire season in a box set that's not much bigger than one VHS?
I loved that show. I loved how plain and mischievous Laura was. I loved Mary's goodness, and her beautiful eyes. I loved the mother, Caroline, and to this day, I love that name. I especially loved Charles Ingalls. He was the handsome, fun, loving father who always did the right thing. Jack and I have loved these books. We've loved reading about the simplicity of their life. How happy they were just to have a sunny day when they didn't have to wear shoes. How much they looked forward to being able to eat the pig tail, and my favorite chapter (I think from the 2nd book) was one describing their simple Christmas. Laura and Mary were thrilled that in their stockings they each got their very own tin cup! They didn't have to share at the table any longer. What an amazing Christmas!
Jack and I read a chapter in this last one that made me wonder about myself as a mother. I'll briefly summarize (and hope I can remember it accurately): Laura and Mary are out playing on the prairie. They see the BIG pile of hay that Pa has gathered and piled for the livestock. Of course, why would it not be fun to slide down that BIG pile of hay? The girls spend the afternoon sliding down the pile, until there is no pile left, and they realize they've done something very bad. They wander back to the house feeling very guilty. Pa comes in and questions them about the hay stack. They admit they played in it, and Pa tells them sternly that they are NOT to slide down the hay stack any more. These are good girls, so they answer "Yes, Pa" and have every intention of obeying.
The next day, they are out near the hay stack once again. They see that Pa has piled it all back up and it is calling to them once again. Laura, of course, can't resist and climbs right up to the top. Mary's yelling at her to come down, and reminding her that Pa said, "no more sliding down the hay stack". Laura, being the mischievous girl that she is, reminds Mary that Pa didn't say not to "climb" the hay stack. Mary thinks about this, and can't tell Laura she is wrong, because she is exactly RIGHT! So, they climb to the top. (At this point in reading the story, I looked up at Jack who was sitting bolt upright in an absolute panic! I asked him "what's wrong?". Of course, he knows those girls should not be playing in that haystack! Good boy.) Laura and Mary begin to rationalize that Pa didn't say they couldn't "roll" or "jump" down the stack. So, these girls climb, roll, and jump down the hay stack until there is no stack left. They walk with their heads hanging low back to their home, waiting for their doom. Pa walks in the door, (Jack's practically chewing on his blanket at this point) and asks the girls if they slid down the hay stack. They honestly answer, "No, Pa! We didn't slide down the haystack at all!". After a little more coaxing, one of them answers, "we only rolled down it, and you didn't say we couldn't roll!". Pa walks over to look out the window, with his back to his girls. (At this point, I'm thinking, "Oh, they know better, let 'em have it, Charles!", very un-Christian like, I'm ashamed to admit). Pa suddenly starts laughing at his girl's responses. He isn't angry with them, and asks them in all seriousness if they want their animals to be hungry during the winter. After they realize the seriousness of the situation, they vow never to play in the hay stack again.
So, why was this story significant to me? It's because Laura and Mary are like most kids. They try to be good. They understand what is right and wrong. They know what their Ma and Pa have asked them to do, but they are just kids. Charles Ingalls remembers this. He hasn't forgotten what it was like to be a kid. He knows sometimes it's hard to make the right choice, even when you've been told again and again. He remembers the temptations, the excitement, and the adrenaline that kids have when they see what they really want. He remembers.
Sometimes I think I don't remember what it was like to be a kid. Sometimes I think just because I've told Jack something 10 times, he's going to do it just right. Sometimes I still can't believe it's hard for him to use a quiet voice in church, even after going to church every week for 5 1/2 years. I've forgotten what it was like to want to tell my mom something I'm excited about and forget that we are in church and use my BIG voice. I've forgotten how hard it is to resist sneaking just one extra cookie. I don't want to forget. I want to remember. I want to understand my children's feelings and weaknesses, so I can be more patient with them. I want to remember how I thought years ago, so I can know how to teach them why things are how they are. It scares me to think that I'm forgetting. I loved this chapter because I love that Charles didn't forget. He understood that Laura and Mary are good girls, but they are just children. He remembered what it was like.
Since this experience (especially after seeing Jack absolutely frightened of what their Pa was going to do to them!), I realized this important thing about myself. I've started to forget... but no longer.
I've always felt sad for women who have forgotten what it's like to have young children and are panicking every time a toy hits the floor. I've sworn I would never become someone who forgets what it was like to not be able to afford fabric softener. I want to remember how we used to donate plasma so we could buy gasoline. And how some days you have no choice but to wear a t-shirt with spit all down the front of it because that's how all your shirts are now. Or, how absolutely exhausting being a new mother is. I don't want to forget. I want to remember it ALL. I'm ashamed that it's started to fade after only a short time, but I'm determined to remember. Just since learning this lesson about myself, I've been able to laugh at things that would probably have irritated me, empathize with people who would have been easy to judge, and most importantly, appreciate my children for who they really are, not just who I'm trying to shape them into becoming. I want to enjoy their childhoods, just like I enjoyed every minute of mine. I refuse to forget.