Yesterday we spent three hours in the car, driving to a lacrosse game, then to a birthday party, then back home. I searched for some free audio books on my phone, and stumbled across the Anne of Green Gables series, and asked Phil if he had read it as a child. He knew the story but couldn't quite remember if it was through the books or movies, so we decided to play it in the car for the kids. As soon as it started, John-Paul said "Oh! I've read this book before. It's good!" and the rest of the kids settled in to listen. I didn't realize that even the three year-old was paying attention until we came to a point where Anne yells "I hate you!" and Xander made this big gasping sound, followed by "She said a baaaaad word!"
When I read these books growing up, I fell in love with Anne. Who could help it? But hearing the story again as an adult, I am really falling in love with the relationship between Matthew and Marilla. Matthew especially steals my heart in his quiet way. He wants Marilla to let Anne stay with them, but doesn't want to battle it out. He quietly lets known his desires and then lets Marilla play catch up. Marilla, being the mother hen to her brother, sees what he wants as foolish, but knows that he wants so little in life, forms such few opinions, that she better take this one seriously. The love between these siblings is a perfect reminder of married love. Giving of one another for the sake of the other's good.
Last night, Phil took Maggie to the Father Daughter dance at her school, and we made a big fuss of it. I let her wear lip gloss and perfume, he bought her flowers, and she couldn't have been any happier. Before they left, I was reminding Phil to make sure to ask her to dance, pay attention to her, treat her like a princess, cluck, cluck, cluck. I shan't have worried. She came back saying it was so wonderful, that Daddy danced with her whenever she wanted - fast and slow songs! - that it was so much fun. She made him a thank you card after the dance.
There are times in parenting these kids that I am too much like Marilla. Too much clucking in my mother hen role, too little enjoying the moments as they come, as Matthew does. I'm especially hard on Maggie, I think. Having only one girl in the house makes Maggie's life difficult sometimes. She doesn't always fit in with her brothers, and they aren't always the nicest to her. She loves attention from them, and will do anything to get it, even if it means annoying them or making them mad. We always thought that if she had a sister, she would be so much easier! I often try to mold Maggie into an easier child, a quieter child, a less emotionally-needy child, for the sake of household peace.
But when I can get Maggie all alone for some one-on-one time, I can see her true beautiful personality shine. She's a joy to be around, helpful and polite. She's friendly and compassionate and engaging. She's funny and sincere and truly a delight! She's a lot like Anne with an E, in fact.
Last night, I could see just how much she adores her Dad and he adores his only principessa, and I am reminded that we just need to love her, to love each of our babies exactly as they are. To parent from a place of yes instead of no. To celebrate their uniqueness in a house full of personalities, and to teach them by quiet example.
...retorted Marilla, "but I'll make it my business to see she's trained to be that. And mind, Matthew, you're not to go interfering with my methods. Perhaps an old maid doesn't know much about bringing up a child, but I guess she knows more than an old bachelor. So you just leave me to manage her. When I fail it'll be time enough to put your oar in."
"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."