Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and blogger at Steady Mom
“There, there, Marilla, you can have your own way,” said Matthew reassuringly. “Only be as good and kind to her as you can without spoiling her. I kind of think she’s one of the sort you can do anything with if you only get her to love you.”
As a 12-year-old I spent hours under the influence of a red-headed orphan. We had plenty of exciting adventures together, and she taught me plenty of lessons. Basically she changed me. And perhaps Anne (with an “e,” of course) planted seeds in my life that later grew into a pretty full harvest–seeds of adoption, of love for books, of writing, and of being an unapologetic starry-eyed dreamer.
I owe a lot to her.
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Years later as a newly married woman, I found my life profoundly impacted when I read all five volumes of L.M. Montgomery’s journals. (If you are a serious Anne fan, you must read these!)
Once again, this author’s words altered my life. This time it wasn’t quite so starry-eyed, however. These were grown-up entries of joy mixed with deep sorrow, happiness side-by-side with heartbreak. I wasn’t sure I could ever look at Anne in the same light again.
But it turned out Anne had a few more lessons up her (puffed) sleeves for me.
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“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
I once read that when you read a book, especially a classic that has impacted others for generations, you should go to it with a question–a specific question in mind relating to your life.
As I read Anne of Green Gables, this time as a parent of three, I asked myself: What can I learn about parenting from this book? And the surprising answer is something I’ve tried to implement ever since:
Loosen up and let maturity do its work.
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As a tween and early teen, Anne is constantly getting into mischief of some sort: making up lies (“stories”), dying her hair green, falling off the ridgepole of a roof, accidentally getting her best friend drunk.
To name a few. Have any constantly mischievous children of your own?
Anne has a fierce temper as well, which shows itself in full fury when she breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head after he teases her about her red hair. Though he apologizes, Anne also has a tendency to hold a grudge:
“Gilbert took from his desk a little pink candy heart with a gold motto on it, “You are sweet,” and slipped it under the curve of Anne’s arm. Whereupon Anne arose, took the pink heart gingerly between the tips of her fingers, dropped it on the floor, ground it to powder beneath her heel, and resumed her position without deigning to bestow a glance on Gilbert.”
Tense and stern Marilla, who (with her brother Matthew) adopts Anne, gradually softens in spite of Anne’s behavior. In the incident with the broken slate, she allows Anne to stay home from school (i.e. homeschool!) until she decides she wants to go back:
“Marilla took Mrs. Rachel’s advice and not another word was said to Anne about going back to school. She learned her lessons at home, did her chores and played with Diana in the chilly purple autumn twilights…”
In spite of Anne’s mischief and misbehavior, there was genius inside: imagination, creativity, intelligence, character. It just needed a little more time to find its way to expression.
At the right season, it blossomed into brilliance.
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Considering Anne’s maturing process brought to mind another quote I read recently in Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About School and Rediscover Education:
“The truth here is that maturation is magic. Irrational teenagers do become rational. Calmness and focus return. All of childhood is filled with times of equilibrium and disequilibrium.
Children’s bodies do each have their own clock. Each clock just may not match the expectations of the structures around the children.”
~ Chapter 40, Maturing solves a lot of problems
Has homeschooling made you a little too tense–a little too stern? What would it mean if you allowed maturity to do its work?
Maybe if we trusted the process, we could relax a little bit more, laugh a little in the midst of the mischief, and allow ourselves to enjoy the journey.
“… a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.”
If you enjoyed this post, check out Jamie’s new book, Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy.
Do you need to loosen up? Do you have a story to share about watching maturity do its work? Any other Anne fans out there?
This post originally published on August 13, 2012.