If you’re like me, the essence of the Little House series is tattooed onto your subconscious. Incidents or event in my life can — and do — effortlessly call a specific book or chapter to mind. I’d say it happens to me almost daily, where a single word or phrase sends me catapulting into the middle of Plum Creek or The Long Winter before I even realize it.
Today that word was “manage.”
“There you have it, Laura!” Pa exclaimed in These Happy Golden Years when Laura was lamenting her lack of success motivating her students, particularly Clarence. “It’s all in that word, ‘manage.'”
It had been a long day in my household. I was home with my five-year-old and my three-year-old, their Dad was out at work, and the wind made it impossible to go outside. (That Kansan wind can blow.) As each of my kids went into their third time-out of the day, I sat down and rethought my strategy. This wasn’t working. Perpetual punishment wasn’t the answer. I wasn’t doing this right. I wasn’t managing.
We parents have to manage. There’s no other option. We’re their parents. It’s our job to be smarter and more clever than our children. We have to be three steps ahead of them, anticipating when a distraction is needed and steering them where they should go without them even being aware of it. We can’t give up on it — no one else is going to improve us as parents. We must do it ourselves, learning as we go. We have to just manage.
As I set each kid in a competiton to see who could clean more spots off the refrigerator, I sat back for the briefest of moments and considered my handiwork.
“There!” I thought. “That’s one thing managed.”