In this article, I would like to give the spotlight to Mr. & Mrs. March. I believe they played an important role to the success of the Little Women in the story. In taking a closer look at the reasons why we love the sisters so much, let’s give the torch back to this lovely couple!
Before anything else, I must admit that the fours sisters’ kindness and womanness affected me as a reader. Abide their different personalities, they were able to help and support each other through life’s challenges. Everytime I put down the book, I know that a part of my heart was stirred into behaving better as a daughter, neighbor, and friend. Sadly, when reality strikes and the provoking too loud, I’m afraid to get succumb to the old ways. And I think, here lies the problem in comparing our own family with the March’s:
Mr. & Mrs. March are just so ideal, except for the clear point of the author that they were ‘humbly poor’.
Although, please allow me to stress out that they were nevertheless, NOT the type who’s poorest of the poor. After all, they can afford to go to gatherings even with little means. In addition, they have not just fair but good connections.
Now, let us take a closer look at how Mr. & Mrs. March model good parenting.
- They make use of the “parent’s intuition”.
According to healthychildren.org, parents should be less afraid of making mistakes because more often than not, they really know what to do. They just have to trust their instincts; it is true that deep down their hearts, they have a good knowledge and intuition of their children.
In the novel, we can clearly see that Mr. & Mrs. March’s hearts were connected to their children’s. For example, when John Brooke confessed to them that he cherishes their daughter, without asking Meg, they knew that he has a chance to be liked back. More importantly, they knew that even though Mr. Brooke is poor, he will be a good match for their lovely daughter.
After all, this was what Mrs. March told her daughters when they were little:
“I am ambitious for you, but not to have you make a dash in the world — marry rich men merely because they are rich, or have splendid houses, which are not homes because love is wanting. Money is a needful and precious thing — but I never want you to think that it is the first and only prize to strive for. I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.” (p.104)
Indeed, she was true to her words. Meg became a happily married woman. Likewise, Mrs. March knows that Laurie Lawrence was not the right match for their Jo. Although Laurie fell in love with Jo, her intuition says that she does not like him back the same way. Mrs. March believed that they were better off as good friends — more like brothers and sisters, than lovers.
And again, she was right, as we all know that Laurie ended up happily with Amy while Jo found love with her old mentor, Mr. Bhaer.
2. They show unconditional love.
Kidshealth.org puts it perfectly: how you express your corrective guidance makes all the difference in how a child receives it. We should remember that children have no choice but to deal with their parents. Conversely, I guess we could only hope that all parents are capable of creating a safe space for their children.
Growing up does not have to feel like merely surviving. Instead, it should be a nourishing experience, just like what Mrs. March provided for her children. I remember one of my favorite scenes in the story where the time came that the sisters got tired of their routine and simply want to rest and play — in short, they wished to do just whatever they wanted to.
We can see Mrs. March’s “corrective guidance” in this case. Unlike all our regular stories, she neither yelled nor nagged at her children. She did not judge them for being lazy. She had a different approach where they themselves could realize the consequences of their actions. At her children’s request, she allowed them to do what they want and see if they do not wish to go back to their old routines.
After a few days, they got tired and bored of “randomly doing stuff”. Finally, they spoke with their mother to express that they want to go back to doing things as they were. Mrs. March was very happy to this realization and said:
“Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for everyone; it keeps us from ennui and mischief, is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion.” (p.124)
Had Mrs. March chose to be overcome by anger on the judgment that her children caters laziness, they most probably would not learn this important lesson. It is not with harsh words, agressive action, or silent treatment that children grow as an individual. Knowing how to express corrective guidance is the best way to show unconditional love.
3. They know their limits as a parent.
And so, they always ask. They know that most of the time, parents can only give advice but in the end, their children themselves will make the decision. We can especially see this wonderful trait when Mr. & Mrs. March did not intrude in their children’s decisions on love and friendship.
For example, when Amy wanted to throw a little gathering for her art classmates, Mrs. March kindly told her about all the hardships she might face doing it. Together with Jo, she gently explained about genuine friendships knowing whom to spend time and money on. However, Amy really wanted to push through it. Mrs. March and her sisters simply put their best efforts to help her prepare. In the end, she was disappointed as to only one of her so-called “friends” showed up.
Here, we can see that Mrs. March respects her children’s independence. Even though she was afraid of the foreseen failure, and thus tried hard to save her daughter from the heartache, she allowed her to make her own decision. She knows her limits as a parent. More importantly, she showed full support which was greatly needed by her daughter that time.
In another instance, she saw Meg having some troubles in her married life when she feels like a little disconnected with her husband John. To this, Mrs. March waited for her daughter to express how she feels and how she see things between them. The good thing about waiting is that Mrs. March dodged the trouble of misjudging her daughter and son-in-law. She knows well enough that Meg already has her own family and that she has no right to interfere with the troubles of the couple until her help was asked for.
After Meg expressed her troubles, these were her advice:
“You have only made the mistake that most young wives make — forgotten your duty to your husband in your love for your children. A very natural and forgivable mistake, Meg, but one that had better be remedied before you take to different ways; for children should draw you nearer than ever, not separate you…” (p.421)
“…don’t neglect husband for children, don’t shut him out of the nursery, but teach him how to help in it. His place is there as well as yours, and the children need him; let him feel that he has his part to do, and he will do it gladly and faithfully, and it will be better for you all.” (p.422)
We can see here that her words are full of wisdom. More importantly, she did not take the side of any party. Instead, she had an eagle’s eye on the situation and kindly explained what was really happening. Nevertheless, she was not pushy at all for Meg to get into action. After giving this advice, she left the decision to her daughter. Luckily, these wise words were not put to waste as later on, we can see these sweet gestures between the two:
“I’m tired of being a dowdy, so I dressed up as a change. You always make yourself nice for table, no matter how tired you are, so why shouldn’t I when I have the time?”
“I do it out of respect to you, my dear,” said old-fashioned John.
Look at those loving words matched with caring actions! But most importantly, the daughter finally came to this conclusion:
Meg learned that a woman’s happiest kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling it not as a queen, but a wise wife and mother. (p.430)
4. They know how to communicate with their children.
At a young age, Jo became aware of her bad temper. Luckily, her mother established a safe ground for her children to share their worries. After telling Mrs. March everything, Jo was astonished to even learn her mother’s secret. Apparently, she had temper issues too but she explained that their father did a great help in order to control it. Jo cannot believe that her mother possesses such troubles because as she said, they never saw her fall into rage.
Mrs. March showed bravery and compassion in telling such truth to her daughter. After all, it takes a lot of courage for someone of authority to admit their weakness. But Mrs. March knew better. She was aware that describing her troubles and how she was trying her best to manage it will motivate her daughter to do the same.
Imagine if she only told her, “You have to learn how to control your anger because it might get you into trouble.” That’s it. No explanation, no deeper understanding, just a command. To further reiterate my point, I would like to mention this line from kidshealth.org: You can’t expect kids to do everything simply because you, as a parent, ‘say so.’ They want and deserve explanations as much as adults do.
And that was exactly what Mrs. March did. To top it all, she further explained that changing for the better is not something that happens overnight. When we discover our bad traits and decide to improve them, there might be a lot of challenges along the way. What’s important is that we always try our best not to be dragged back to those bad traits.
“We all have our tempations, some far greather than yours, and it often takes us all our lives to conquer them.” (p.84)
5. Finally, they make it sure that they, themselves, are good role models.
Kidshealth.org affirms that young children copy their parents. Therefore, it is only imperative that they become good role models. In the story, we can see that Mr. & Mrs. March are unquestionably impeccable.
In one scene, when Mrs. March was explaining to Jo how she was able to overcome her temper, she proudly tells her that Mr. March was very patient in helping her. He never got tired and in fact, was always hopeful that she can do it. More importantly, Mrs. March mentioned that she was inspired because her husband clearly showed her how to be a good example to their daughters. To this, she said:
“I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example.” (p.85)
In the same light, when Mr. March learned that Jo was writing sensation stories, this was what he mentioned:
“Don’t spoil your book, my girl, for there is more in it than you know, and the idea is well worked out. Let it wait and ripen,” was her father’s advice; and he practiced as he preached, having waited patiently thirty years for fruit of his own to ripen, and being in no haste to gather it even now when it was sweet and mellow. (p.290)
Through this description, we can clearly see that Mr. March is a man of his words. He did not simply command her daughter to do something just because he says so, instead he was respected because he practiced as he preached.
Lastly, when this couple saw how Amy glowed and fully became the gentlewoman she hoped to become, this was their conversation:
“Love has done much for our little girl.”
“She has had a good example before her all her life, my dear,” Mr. March whispered back, with a loving look at the worn face and gray head beside him. (p.483)
And I think that this is one of the sweetest scenes in the story! They have not only been role models individually, as a mother and as a father, but as a couple as well. Perhaps, this also greatly influenced the success of each of the March sisters’ marriage. They grew up in a loving home, guarded by loving parents. And so, they clearly know how it is to be genuinely loved.
And those are the five reasons why Mr. & Mrs. March are the parents we were wishing for.
On a personal note, I hope all mothers and fathers are as wise as Mr. & Mrs. March. They understand and love each other a great deal, do not fight in front of their daughters, and support them through ups and downs. It was clear that they only wish their daughters a happy and fulfilled life. As a result, the March sisters can freely share their feelings to them without fearing any judgment. They can confide to their mother and to each other as well.
They have established a safe ground, home, and space for their children (which most of us only hope so from our own parents). Mr. and Mrs. March’s love is touching in all ways without a slight tinge of traumatizing their daughters.
You see, some of us think that our parents have raised us well, romanticizing all forms of “discipline” we deemed as fit to help us grow and become successful. Unfortunately, most may not have noticed that perhaps, our lives are governed by childhood traumas that we either deny or dismiss.
It is important to look at Mr. & Mrs. March in order to fully understand why we love the four sisters so much. As we have seen, it is a matter of correct upbringing which is complete with physical, emotional, mental, and financial support from wonderful parents.
For most of us who did not have the privilege of living under such nurturing guidance, may we always remember that “parents” and “family” are not limited to biological ones. At some point in our lives, we may have considered an aunt, an uncle, a friend’s parent, or even a stranger, to have acted more as a parent than our own. Likewise, we may have felt other people are more of brothers or sisters to us than our own.
Blood-related or not, know that there are people who truly care for us in this vast universe. The important thing is that we know how to treasure them.