Monday, November 17, 2008

lessons from the country bunny...

Last summer while browsing the sale books at Powell's Books on a family trip to Portland, I came across the children's book called Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by Dubose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack and Marjorie Hack (wow, what are the chances the book's two illustrators would have those names--is that for real?). The cover of the book has such a pretty illustration of a mother bunny flanked by her twenty-one children, that I slapped down my 1.99 (gotta love those remainder piles) without even opening up the book.
When I sat down to read it, I realized quickly that it was an Easter story and probably not one my kids, who don't celebrate Easter, or don't even have any sense of the Easter bunny or what eggs are, could relate to. However, Tali and Naomi especially liked the pretty descriptions of the colorful eggs and the homelife of the bunny family, and the whole story was so pretty and calming and charming that the book became our fave bedtime story. Also, it didn't hurt that despite it being quite a long tale (almost 50 pages), both girls usually drifted off before it ever ended, making it a very nice book to have on hand.

But after reading it for the umpteenth time, it started to seem incredibly clear to me that the story of the Country Bunny--the story of a bunny who gave up her lifelong dreams of becoming the Easter bunny because she needed to take care of her children--was the ultimate legend of the struggle of work/life balance. She was perfectly capable of becoming the Easter Bunny--she was quick and courageous and clever and good--but on top of having all of these bunnies to care for, she was also a female bunny and apparently Easter Bunnying was a buck's job and the Country Bunny took a lot of heat for even considering such a lofty goal. It seems amazing to me that this feminist story was written in 1939.

And here's the other thing... One of the reasons why the Old Grandfather Bunny considers Country Bunny to be so clever is that she teaches her bunnies to basically do everything around the house. They made dinner, did the dishes, created art for the home, learned dancing in order to entertain their bunny siblings while they did chores around the house and so on. Those little bunnies did everything. One of them even pulled the chair out for his mother when it was time for dinner. Country Bunny set herself up well.
The little bunnies did their jobs nicely and they did not complain. Personally, it seemed like a little much, but I chalked it up to the fact that if I had twenty one bunnies, I'd sure as hell need to teach them to be useful, too.

I can only imagine what that would look like in my house.

But the other day when we were with friends, I asked Samuel to watch Naomi while I paid a bill, and then I asked Tali to take her to the bathroom with her (I could see the door), a stranger standing nearby mentioned that I asked the older kids to take care of her a lot.

"Really?" I said. "I don't think it's so much. Plus, they like to do it."

"I just think it might be a bit much for their ages."

I didn't say anything, but thought about it awhile. And then decided that nope, it wasn't too much at all. Tali has started doing the dishes everyonce in awhile, and she loves to separate the dirty clothes into piles and load the wash machine, and I think it's not a bad idea (for many reasons) to foster her desire to help out and take on some household chores. And when Samuel spent three hours last Sunday raking up the leaves in our yard instead of playing with his Legos, he was rewarded with kudos and obvious relief on our part that we had one less job on our To-Do list.

When my workload started piling up this Fall, I worried about having to slack off on some things, like having clean clothes put away or boxes of Mac and Cheese for dinner more nights than anyone would like. But what I'm finding is that the kids really like taking on the responsibility. They are not only so much more capable than I'd ever imagined, but they actually like helping out. And I feel so much less harried when they're hanging out and helping.

Talk to me in a few years when we've hit tweens and teens and I'm sure the story might seem a bit different. But every once in a while a parental epiphany happens upon me and this one was incredibly welcomed. In a society that is so geared toward children, my family's days of serving the children is coming to an end as they grow up, and the glimpse of a future where we as a family work together for a common good is close at hand. Change is coming.
(Wow, maybe the Obama election is effecting all fronts of life...)
And of course it's not that I don't love being a mom and not moving too quickly up the rungs of my career ladder for awhile seems to be what I need to do at this point in my life. But it's starting to seem real to me that there will be a day in the near future where I don't have to pull out a diaper from my purse in order to find my cellphone. Of all role models I could choose, Country Bunny seems like one of the least likely. But truly for the first time ever, instead of being incredibly torn about moving on to a stage of life that doesn't involve babies, I'm very excited about my future, as well as my children's.


Becky said...

Good for you Amy!! Who would have thought that the Easter Bunny would help a good Jewish girl like yourself?!

And I wonder if that rude stranger was the same woman who attacked me for making a Kosher meat error in the grocery store. :-)

Shannon said...

People sure love to stick their noses in, don't they? I wonder if that person even had kids of their own...

Jennifer said...

Seriously, a stranger commented on your children and your parenting??? Um, wow. I might have been tempted to ask the older children to help little N kick that lady in the shins.

I loved, loved, loved that book when I was little. LOVED. Go Mama Bunny!

Jessica, Jackie and Ezra said...

Our preschool teacher once told us the earlier you start having your child help around the house the easier it will be to get them to help when they are tweens..etc. It's Waldorf methodology...take it or leave it. Go Naomi!

Jessica, Jackie and Ezra said...

When my friend Carrie got pregnant about 5 years ago, she said and her husband had a conversation that went something like, "Just think honey, in five years, we'll never have to clean the bathroom again!"

"Let's have seven kids!"