The Happy Home – Does it Exist, And The Role of Parents?

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The Happy Home – Does it Exist, And The Role of Parents?

Kids arguing again. Financial strains. Personalities clash and interests pull everyone in multiple directions.

In such a scenario, it becomes tempting to think a happy home is impossible, or at least within one’s own family dynamic. Don’t give up hope. One value among many afforded by great Literature is a clear window into all sorts of human realities, the home being one.

The 18th century classic, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott about the March family is one such telling novel. The reader enters into a world wrought by sorrow, stress and even death, but alive with love and pursuit of the good even after failure and repeated mistakes. The book illustrates that happiness in the home is not determined by external factors, but upon each one’s internal disposition which, in turn, is greatly influenced by the example of parents.

The March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – are growing up amidst the turmoil of the Civil War which is not only the cause of their family’s lost fortune, but also of losing their father to the cause. Often, the young and diverse set of sisters feel the weight of their new poverty and Meg, who is particularly drawn to pretty little delicacies, laments their troubles: “Don’t you wish we had the money papa lost . . . dear me how happy and good we would be.” Beth, the quiet little sister, pipes up, “You said you thought we were a great deal happier than the King children who were fighting and fretting all the time, in spite of their money.” While some families may be financially flourishing, most are not. Even so, financial stability is not what constitutes the happy home, or children that get along.

Neither, however, does a household of people that get on perfectly constitute the happy home. Frankly, that does not exist. The March girls are constantly at odds, not only because personalities clash, but also because they have lapses of selfishness and naughtiness as all kids do. At one point, fiery tempered Jo becomes infuriated with prim little Amy for a childish deed she did. Jo is convinced never to forgive her, which leads to a grave accident in which Amy’s life is endangered. Terrified seeing what her temper brought about, Jo despairs in herself. Mrs. March calmly sooths her “’Never get tired of trying, and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault’ . . . The patience and humility of the face she loved so well was a better lesson to Jo than the wisest lecture, the sharpest reproof.’”

Amy and Jo made up. Though it did not end their bickering permanently, it gave them a new perspective into the ruinous nature of hard hearts, and into their own weaknesses they needed to conquer. What really urged a earning to be better in the future, however, was recognizing that it was achievable. Mrs. March’s role in Little Women reveals the influence of parents, not so much in words, but in deed. A parent is the most formative figure in a child’s life, becoming their standard for accepted behavior and that which they strive toward, or don’t.

Despite their unwelcome poverty and constant debates, the March household was one of laughter and love that melted the hearts of many, even their rough-natured elderly neighbor, Mr. Laurence. Through Alcott’s writings, one steps into a home; a happy home. What constitutes that happiness concerns none of the external factors, but rather the interior disposition of each, leading to forgiveness of wrongs done, patience with others faults, and humility to recognize one’s own. Essential, however, is the parent leading the way.

So, again, don’t give up hope. Kids arguing and financial stress: that’s family life from the beginning of time. Just pick up a good book for a little perspective, and kids will follow the lead.


Cecilia O’Reilly grew up in Virginia as one of fourteen kids and is now working as an journalist for Family & Media, based in Rome, Italy. Family & Media is an international-social research group that studies family in the context of mass media in modern society. Find analyses on new trends affecting family life, sociological studies, news, interviews and more, on their website http://www.familyandmedia.eu

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