I think my husband Graham put it exactly right. After finishing up a chapter featuring clear directions on how to slaughter and clean a hog and then cross a river, "If I ever plan a wagon ride across the country with our family, I am going to bring Laura Ingalls Wilder's set of books: Little House on the Prairie, and that's all we'll need."
He's right. These books of course make me think about the great family sleep you get on such a journey on the Prairie from the long, slow, rocking of the wagon luring Baby Carrie to sleep to the warm fire and sounds of Pa's fiddle sending the big girls off into sweet dreams, night after night. Besides if you are a toddler transitioning to a big girl bed then why would you ever leave your nice heavy blankets and cozy spot next to your sister, especially if the fire is out, there is frost on the floor, and there are wolves howling outside?
My youngest sleeper is 3 now, and I have been spending a lot of time thinking about discipline as she hits and kicks whenever I dare take her to the bathroom, she hits and kicks whenever she is the car for too long, and just generally hits and kicks when life doesn't go her way. She has great language skills and loves to share her thoughts, except when she's angry. In my hope to help her - her siblings, and selfishly, me - I have once again returned to the Ingalls family and their guide for Prairie travel as well as parenting.
Here are my two fundamental questions to Ma an Pa Ingalls and in italics how they might respond*:
- Why do your daughters listen to you?
They listen to us because we keep them safe. Our rules aren't just about being polite and being respectful; they are about staying healthy and alive. Feeling safe in a family is really important to a child - whether it's literally keeping the wolves out - or being kind and thoughtful to a sibling.
- Why are your daughters such good sleepers?
They are physically exhausted. Your kids would be too if they had tasks that kept their bodies moving all day too. They also have great wind down routines to cue the end of the day. We give them heavy blankets that trigger a calming effect - the same idea of swaddling a baby. Finally we don't make getting out of bed alluring. Outside the warm, safe, bed, it is cold, dark and most importantly boring.
- Pa, how do you find time to play the fiddle after such a long day?
I think it is important to show my children my interests and talents I also like ending the day spending time together that is calming rather than exhilarating. It works for all of us!
I am going to try to channel my innner Pa Ingalls and get Loewy to ease up on the hitting, hopefully your future bedtimes will be a little less fraught.
*I can't help but assume the voices of Ma and Pa. I have been reading these books for 2 years, and they are very much a part of my parenting fabric for now. It's either them or Percy Jackson (Alistair's favorite) or Toot and Puddle (Loewy's favorite).