Picking up Little Women for a re-read meant a nostalgia trip. This book by Louisa Alcott, written over a hundred years ago has been a part of my growing up years. Way back in school we devoured the entire series. All my friends found at least one sister she completely identified with. Each girl is a protagonist in her own right, at least in the first book.
As I browsed through the book again, looking for a passage to share at my book club, the character that really struck me for its quiet strength was Marmee. I wondered how I hadn’t really noticed her earlier. I took her for granted, I suppose – just like we take mums for granted in real life.
I didn’t even know her real name. It is Margaret March, same as Meg’s. Other than that Alcott gives us very little background on her. I did read, though that she modelled her on her own mother Abigail Alcott – a writer and a social activist.
Here are some lessons modern-day parents can pick from this super-mum
- Break the mould: Marmee didn’t believe in pushing her kids to fit into predefined societal roles. Whether it was Meg and her fancy friends or Amy’s school pals, Marmee encouraged the girls to hold their own. When school becomes a chore for the painfully shy Beth she allows her to be home-schooled.
- No comparisons: She gave her daughters the freedom to be themselves. With four such different children comparisons would be inevitable. Not for Marmee. She appreciates each of her daughter for her individual qualities.
- Live your lesson: Marmee teaches by doing. The classic example is when she confesses to Jo about having a bad temper. “I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it; and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
- Back to the basics: Marmee’s life is guided by basic principles of piety, simplicity, honesty, hard-work and thrift. We often forget to reinforce them to the children though her values stand the test of time.
- Money isn’t happiness: Though they are poor Marmee doesn’t push her daughters to marry for money and yet she isn’t biased against the wealthy Laurie. Here’s a woman to whom money truly didn’t make a difference.
- Beyond vanities: She encouraged her daughters to look beyond external vanities. She brings a beautiful balance in her upbringing. Though she doesn’t forbid her daughters from dressing up or going to parties she does stress that they should be more than just that.
Linking up to ABC Wednesday with thanks to Mrs Nesbitt who thought up this wonderful meme.