Uncovering my own pride and prejudice

Uncovering my own pride and prejudice ~SimpleHomeschool.net
Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool, also blogs about motherhood at Steady Mom

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”
“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”
“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.”
(Mr. Darcy with Elizabeth Bennett; Ch. 11)

This year I’m joining in with hundreds of other mamas in an online book club hosted by my friend Nicole Bennett (and it’s not too late to join!). Our goal?

To reread all of Jane Austen’s novels in 2014–not just for the fun of it (though it is fun), but to study these works through the lens of motherhood, asking ourselves a few questions along the way:

  • What does Austen have to say about family relationships?
  • What do the mothers in her novels teach us about how to engage with our kids (either by what they do well…or more often, the opposite!)
  • What personal themes, messages, and inspiration can I take away for this busy season in my own life?

“If my children are silly, I must hope to be always sensible of it… This is the only point, I flatter myself, on which we do not agree. I had hoped that our sentiments coincided in every particular, but I must so far differ from you as to think our two youngest daughters uncommonly foolish.”
(Mr. Bennett to his wife; Ch. 7)

“Nobody can tell what I suffer! — But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied.”
(Mrs. Bennett; Ch. 20)

Jane Austen BookshelfPhoto by John Lodder

In January and February we tackled Pride and Prejudice–a wide-open goldmine for the study of inappropriate relationships!

As we take a peek at the Bennett parents, for example, the whole nurture and nature debate comes out in full force. Mrs. Bennett is a silly, superficial, childlike mother–so how did her eldest two daughters turn out more emotionally mature than she appears to be?

And Mr. Bennett is almost entirely checked out from the chaos of the home–though instead of retreating in front of a screen as the stereotype of today’s absent father suggests–he shuts the door of his library and spends as much time as possible with his books.

Yes, the study of unmatched, unequally-yoked marriages cuts across much of this novel–including the developing relationship between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. A train wreck waiting to happen, misunderstandings, sweeping criticisms on both sides, and a lack of common courtesy mark their communications from the start.

“From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
(Lizzy to Darcy; Ch. 34)

Lizzy judges from day one–based on rumors, first impressions, and her own hurt feelings. Darcy does the same, allowing his ego to overshadow his manners.

Pride and Prejudice movie exhibit Photo by Simon Q

As their relationship progresses these misunderstandings escalate to a ridiculous degree, making me want to throw my Kindle across the room (I restrained myself), grab them both by the shoulders, and say “WOULD YOU GUYS JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER AND SORT THIS OUT?!”

And as I’m feeling this way–before the happy ending arrives–a question rises up inside:

“Is there anyone in my life that I do this to? Anyone that I misunderstand, judge, feel superior to, and ignore when their behavior doesn’t suit me?”

The answer comes immediately and makes me suck in my breath with its reproach:

My children.

Without even realizing it at times (on a subconscious level–just like in P&P) I make sweeping judgments about my kids. Like Lizzie does to Darcy, I fail to see their good and their growth–because I put my focus instead on their issues.

Ouch.

On a typical day at home, I write down a list of what the kids accomplish academically that day. Trishna’s cursive lesson, Jonathan’s math on the computer, Elijah’s audio books and everything in between.

But my reprimand from Pride and Prejudice inspired me to keep a different kind of list at least for one day. Instead of writing down academics, I listed each of my kids and what they did right and well. I wrote down the good.

I ended up with a page packed full of scribbled notes, including these highlights:

  • Trishna (10) told me she loves hanging out with me
  • Jonathan (9) offered to make breakfast when he saw I was busy with something
  • Elijah (8) took a heavy bag down to the basement without being asked

There were little challenges in our day too, of course, but my overflowing page of chronicled awesomeness kept them in their proper perspective. By the end of the day, my heart was full and my personal prides and prejudices had been knocked back where they belong.

I remembered a few truths in this experiment:

  • We draw out what we bring our attention to.
  • My house is full of incredible individuals living and learning together–all of us wildly imperfect–but growing in character each day.
  • Keeping my focus on the good stops me from being blinded by my own character weaknesses.

Thank you Jane, Lizzy, and Darcy for the much-needed lesson.

I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit…

Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous.”
(Darcy to Lizzy; Ch. 58)

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. Wow. You’re right. Ouch. I do the same thing. I really like the idea of writing a list everyday of the good things our kids have done. Sometimes when you have several children, you spend so much time reprimanding that you miss the goodness in the background.
    Shelly’s latest post: Sorting Things Out

  2. Here’s where I confess I’ve only read two Jane Austens: EMMA and PERSUASION! Love the insight you’ve gathered here. xo
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: On Writing

  3. I hate admitting it, but I do this with my husband. And my husband does it with out oldest child. It’s like a bad cycle :S

  4. What a thoughtful post! I love how you gleaned ways we can apply even a novel like P&P to our every day lives.
    Linda’s latest post: A New Year’s Eve Reflection

  5. I love this idea to write down the inspiring, encouraging, positive moments from the day! It aligns a lot with observing for learning (self-design) where we don’t just write lists of what chapter was read, which math questions were completed, etc. We try to instead look for “aha” moments, questions, conversations, problem solving, conflict resolution, and those special moments where we see love languages come out.

  6. Oh I totally love this post…. I think as a homeschool mom it is even easier to find fault in the things my kids do wrong – I have so much more material on a daily basis than if my kids were away in school. I have made a conscious effort this year, not just to read through Jane Austen, but to notice the good in a situation and to say it out-loud… the opposite is so much easier to do!!! When a child spent an entire week reading on the couch, barely moving… I was about to say – get off the couch and do something, anything… and then my “conscious effort” kicked in and I realised that this child had read their way through an entire library’s worth of books… I have discovered that a lighter step in my children and so my own… good behaviour certainly begets more of the same from all of us, not just the kids.
    se7en’s latest post: Can Your Best Book Friend Help Us Build a Library?

  7. On a whim, I started something new at bedtime recently. I praise my boys (3 and 5) often, but I’ve found recently that it is becoming harder as they get older and more competitive with one another. If I tell one of them they do something well, the other one is always quick to follow it with a “Me too!” So, I started whispering a “secret” at night to each of my boys, so quiet that the other could not hear it from the next bed. It gives me the opportunity to find something positive in my children even on the worst of days. And after a few days, they started asked if I had a secret to tell them tonight. It is a special little moment and leaves me feeling so grateful even when the day has been filled with chaos and conflict.
    Katie’s latest post: In my studio…

  8. How thougthful.

  9. Thank you so much for this post. It brought tears to my eyes…truly. I see my own pride and prejudice rear its ugly head DAILY with my children. Perhaps, I hold back unkind words (not always), but the mean thoughts about them are there. YUCK!!! I read your blog frequently and I almost always find a golden nugget of truth that you are hammering out in your own life. Thanks for sharing those “nuggets” with us. I really can tell you are a good mother, not because you brag, but because of the humility you offer us. It’s the reason why I keep reading. I always feel encouraged (even though I fall SO short). You inspire both through offering creative ideas, new ways of doing life, tips etc…, AND through being refreshingly honest about the difficulties of being a mom. I can listen to your “wisdom”, and not feel inferior or ashamed that I don’t “measure up”. You know those bloggers? The super moms who make you want to throw the towel in b/c you’ll never measure up! You are a supermom(the real kind) who makes me want to be one too, even if it’s just one tiny change! Thank you!

  10. sounds like a fascinating exploration and viewpoint of books that many are familiar with. however, without knowing the early years of care provided it would be difficult to determine why they act the way they do. e.g., I think most had paid caregivers, maybe even wet nurses, since birth. My understanding is parents in that day and age were very hands off with their children…so for nature v. nuture you would have to know who their nannies were and their background to see how it impacted them. I was a nanny and the three kids all had different nannies from birth till about age 2 and all had very different personalities. the mother told me she felt they were formed by their caregivers. but, having a child of my own, I see oh so much that is just nature and I may be able to influence it for good but to get it to change, I don’t think anything could.

  11. I wish I could join you in this reading goal, However, thanks to a link from your blog here, I have embarked on going through the 7Keys Certification they were offering at TJ Ed free a while back. I’m reading the 3rd classic in the curriculum so far and have been enjoying it. Reading this post from you was tickling because I’m now starting to see what it looks like to learn from classics. I never thought of fiction before as such a valuable tool, other than the fact that they are just good stories. It’s very exciting to be able to see the characters as tutors in life. Thank you for sharing your heart and love of learning with us. I find few homeschooling moms locally who are willing to engage in such discussions or consider embarking on an education of their own as a part of educating their children. I suppose a few is plenty though! In any case, it is like fresh air to find encouragement here, like a faraway friend.

  12. I love the idea of reading Austen’s novels with a view toward motherhood. I just found out about the bookclub but would love to join in for the next selection. I’ll be picking up the next book at the library this week.

    Your idea of writing down the good things you notice about your children is a good one. I can see how that would help keep focus on the positives and make it easier to love them like God does. :)

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