Whenever I read The Little House series to my kids, especially the 1st two books when the kids are little, I love noting the mom. I love the mom in these books so much. When I think of the pioneer woman, and wonder how she did it, I read between the lines of these books and see the answer to my question. Here are some things that I really admire about Caroline.
She was always teaching her children and she had rules. She also had good expectation of herself.
I sometimes feel guilty that I'm not a "fun mom." OK, I feel guilty about that a lot. I feel like I should be creating these huge events for my children, and setting up this amazing life of imagination and blessings on them. Things Caroline is quoted saying are things like "put on your sunbonnet" and "set the table" and "bring in some wood." She managed her household and parented her children, and recognized that kids can find fun easily by themselves. You don't hear her say "Let's do this fun art project using 423 pieces" or directing games for the kids. She's always working. She gives her kids responsibility, and doesn't feel guilty about it.
I don't see Caroline feeling like she's a bad mom because she doesn't have huge birthday parties for the kids, or lamenting over not ever making those cupcakes as cool as the ones on Pinterest. She's quite content with just making sure everyone is fed and clothed everyday.
She lets her kids get dirty.
Mary and Laura are playing in rivers, climbing trees and tossing around a pig's bladder like a balloon. Sure, she's sometimes helping Mary with her nine-patch quilt, but she doesn't mind Laura making mud pies in the background. To her, kids getting dirty is just a part of childhood.
She's openly in love with her husband and honors him in front of her children. Ma and Pa are mushy together in front of the girls all the time. Caroline puts her handprint on each corn cake she makes, because Pa says that just having her handprint on it means he doesn't need to add any other sweetener. She's seen playing with his hair when he's resting in the grass. She laughs when he's being silly, and she lifts him up in status when she talks about him to the girls. He's the hero of the family, and she speaks of him to the girls that way. She doesn't act jealous that the girls seem to love his jolly attitude and violin playing when her time with the kids consisted of saying "take a nap" and "watch Baby Carrie." It almost seems that she sets it up that way. She gets the girls excited to see Pa come home, and pumps them up for the fun they'll have when he gets back from hunting rabbits. She just loves seeing her family enjoy each other.
She's levelheaded and strong.
When Indians come to the house, she feeds them, and shows no fear in front of her girls. She knows what needs to be done from the dangerous to the practical, and she faces the challenges before her with such logic, but also with lots of honesty. She has no shame in saying when she's afraid, but she doesn't let that fear rule her...all when her girls are watching. She's their role model.
She makes everything beautiful, and is content to work with what she has.
She puts the china doll on the fireplace mantel, and lets the family admire it. You don't hear her whining to the family, though, that she wishes she had a whole china doll collection. When Pa builds a house, she encourages him to rest instead of be too ambitious. She doesn't feel entitled to things, but when things come her way, she uses them to bless her whole family with the gift of beauty. She takes care of what she has rather than sulking over what she doesn't have. She takes the little ingredients she has, and makes meals special. She is happy when they have sugar and makes a party of it, but when they don't, she makes the lack of sugar not seem so bad.
She's a total pragmatist. It's hard to argue with that. However, even though her life is full of practical things, and doing things the right way, and working hard, she still appreciates a violin playing at the end of the day. She doesn't just make blankets to keep warm, she makes them beautiful just because. Beauty and art are as important to her as practicality. She doesn't let either of them dominate.
She is not controlled by clutter.
I used to wonder how a pioneer woman made it without a washer and drier. Well, when people only have 1 old set of clothes to wear on laundry day, and 1 new set of clothes, there's not much to wash once a week. Laundry for her took an hour or two once a week. She laid everything out on the grass to dry and went about her day. You don't see them hauling everything but the kitchen sink across the prairie. No, she's the master of "make it work." She makes do with so little, and actually THRIVES on little.
She doesn't have a baby book for each of the kids, and she doesn't stay up late writing in there which tooth they lost on which date. She doesn't take pictures, or feel bad when she misses taking a video of first steps. She's in the moment all the time. Her mind thinks about what they will eat, making sure everyone has bedding for the night and has what they need. There's not a long list of "things good mothers do" in her head, from blogging to scrapbooking, playdates and date nights. Nope, her life isn't controlled by the clutter of things, nor the clutter of activities. She keeps it simple, and does a few things well.
She doesn't read books on parenting.
I'm not saying reading them is bad. I hope not, because I have a whole shelf of them on my bookshelf. I love to read articles on the subject. However, I envy her just doing what needs to be done. Maybe she did agonize over what sort of life her kids would have not going to the library every week, or if her kids would end up in therapy. It doesn't seem so, though. Maybe she wonders if they're ruining her kids' lives by putting so much responsibility on them and isolating them from their peers. There's no hint of that, though either. She doesn't agonize over how to discipline, or their self esteem. She knows who she is, and what she's about, and she doesn't need any expert to help her figure that out. She teaches them about life, about work, and she teaches them manners. Those 3 things are the theme of her quotes. Almost all of her quotes from the books are commands.
She likes a good adventure, and she dreams.
I've read other books like Giants in the Earth where women crossing the prairie didn't do as well as Caroline. Some women literally went insane. Some women complained every mile of the way westward. Not Caroline, though. Her husband proposed an adventure that required leaving her home and family and everything she had ever known. It was hard, but she did it. You see her cry when she leaves her parents, but you never hear her complain. She doesn't puff up or make light of the challenges to her children, but when her husband is there, she is a tower of sense and open-mindedness. Sure, let's build the fireplace this way. Um...let's put the well over here. She seems to welcome this life interruption of moving West with such grace, that I admire her.