If you’ve read the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you know that time and again things go terribly wrong for the Ingalls family. And of all the books, On the Banks of Plum Creek contains the greatest misfortunes for America’s favorite pioneer family.
I had read the whole series aloud with my older daughter when she was five, cuddling on the couch for hours as her little brother slept. Now I felt it was time to introduce the series to my middle children, currently 5 and 8. Since finding time to read aloud is a bit harder with four kids, we’ve been listening to the series as audiobooks in the car.
We were listening to On the Banks of Plum Creek on the way to piano lessons, and we had just heard the scene that I had dreaded (spoiler alert!): the grasshoppers descend like a plague and devour the Ingalls’ wheat crop and every other green thing for miles. I parked the car, and as the kids began to trundle out of it with their piano books, my oldest daughter (10) asked me, “Remember the most horrible thing that happens next?”
I didn’t. I thought the most horrible thing had already happened. Grasshoppers eating all your food and livelihood is, after all, pretty terrible. In fact, from my grown-up perspective, this was certainly the most horrible thing that could happen!
But a child’s perspective is different.
“What’s the most horrible thing?” I asked her.
She leaned close to whisper to me, “Pa has to leave to find work. And his boots have holes in them!”
The difference in perspective between an adult and a child struck me like a wall. To me, Pa leaving to find work was a solution! A way out of the horrible situation of being without food or a way to earn an income. To her, and likely to the child Laura, Pa leaving was the tragedy. She could deal with dire circumstances so long as the family unit remained whole.
When I step back and think about it, the child’s perspective may be a better one. Think of it spiritually. God is our Father, and so long as He is with us, we don’t need to worry so much about outside circumstances.
Perhaps children know this innately. They place their trust in people, in their parents, in God, rather than in their possessions.
I think we all could stand to see the world through a child’s eyes.
Matthew 18:3 “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'” (NIV)
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I would never have pegged that moment as The Most Horrible Thing either, and it is eye-opening indeed… thank you for this glimpse into a child’s heart.
Yes, it was such a surprise glimpse into her heart that I had to write about it.
Loren Warnemuende says
Wow. Love this perspective-changer.
Thank you, Loren!
Glenn McCarty says
A really nice snapshot of so many nice things, especially the ways in which we can really understand our children through the stories we share together. Thanks so much, Carolyn!
Thank you! It was certainly an enlightening moment for me as a mom! It’s wonderful to see what conversations a book will instigate. 🙂
That series has so many moments that I mentally reference as powerful/sobering examples. I thought I was reading these for my kids! As a father I saw that as such a Christ moment, the father laying down His life. I can feel the pain of having to leave my family in order to save them. I love how willingly and without complaint he does that (even with the hole-y boots). A child seeing that as the worst part almost amplifies that sacrifice. I find myself asking how does your children’s pained response reveal that of the Godhead sending the Son?
I think of how that decision to leave would have affected Laura and siblings later in life. Would they have expected/done any less when they encountered need in their own households? What an example.
I love your insights! We are now on Little Town on the Praire where Laura makes similar self-sacrificial decisions, denying her own will, to earn money to send Mary to college! Certainly Pa’s self-denial impacted her, though it was painful at the time.
Thea Rosenburg says
I love these moments with children! It’s so easy to assume that I understand, more or less, the way that my kids view the world and then . . . bam. They blow my understanding out of the water.
It is so amazing! I vividly remember being around my daughter’s age and having the thought that I wouldn’t forget what it felt like to be a kid. Other adults might forget, but I would remember. I remember that moment, but I can’t recall what it was about childhood I wanted to remember. It is such a loss, but such a gain for those glimpses through our children’s eyes! It reminds me of the Andrew Peterson song, Day by Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfOaTbadP64
Mary Hill says
It is true that children can teach us. So much wisdom from a little one. I am so gld you stopped by and share with us on Literacy Musing Mondays. Congrats on guest posting too.
Thanks, Mary! I always appreciate your comments. 🙂
I love this – and I’m so glad you shared it at Read Aloud Thursday so I could find it! This is one of those reasons we read familiar (to us) stories to our children, isn’t it? Yes, we do it to share the books that shaped us with our children – but we do it just as much to see those familiar stories through new eyes. And as we share those stories together, we all develop new, richer perspective TOGETHER.
That is such a good point. Reading a story with our kids opens up not only the author’s viewpoint and our own, but hopefully that of our children as well.