As an artless preteen, I could not get enough of Anne Shirley. Whimsical, misunderstood, and carelessly beautiful, she was the perfect icon for a girl dreaming of success in love and academia. After I adopted my kids, I watched the movie with my daughter and discovered a newfound admiration for Anne’s adoptive mother, Marilla Cuthbert. Sensible and stubborn, she brought up her child with grace and integrity, knowing all the while that she would not be the one accepting praise for the outcome. Here are some great lessons I gleaned from her parenting style:
What I Learned about Adoptive Parenting from ‘Anne of Green Gables’
There are a lot of lessons to be learned about adoptive parenting from the classic novel 'Anne of Green Gables.' Here are a few things I learned.
When Marilla’s friend Rachel criticizes Anne’s homely appearance and flaming red hair, Marilla does not make excuses for her daughter’s emotional outburst. She does, however, rebuke Rachel for being too hard on Anne and reasons that the child may never have been taught what was right. There are times when our adoptees will need our compassion more than anything else. While we shouldn’t tolerate misbehavior, we need to keep in mind the places they come from and respect that their journeys will be different. As mama or papa-bears, we need to keep our children safe from judgments that would impede their growth.
Anne waited until a guest was seated at the family’s dessert table to reveal that she had left the pudding sauce uncovered overnight, allowing a mouse to climb in and drown. While Marilla’s embarrassment was obvious, she couldn’t help but chuckle over Anne’s romanticizing of the mouse’s tragic demise. It is crucial for adoptive parents not to take their children’s mishaps too seriously. They are learning responsibility the way a baby learns to walk: by falling and getting back up again. Stressing over formalities will only frustrate you and antagonize your child.
Marilla Cuthbert was not a go-as-you-please mom, and her strict approach helped Anne to develop a sensitive conscience and strong work ethic. When I first adopted, I was pretty free-spirited with my kids, wanting to focus on building an unconditionally loving relationship without discouraging them. Over time, however, I learned that telling them “no” and enduring the tantrums would prevent bigger problems later on, and it brought more peace to our home.
When Marilla doesn’t want to allow 16-year-old Anne to attend a ball, her brother Matthew reminds her that “We got no call to raise her as cheerless as we was.” Rewards work magic with adoptees, and inexpensive outings such as walks to Dunkin’ Donuts or toys from the dollar store are exciting indulgences for children from hard places. Special family excursions such as vacations and holiday plans can be discussed with great enthusiasm before and after. It gives kids a sense of safety, expectation, and hope that they may not have had before.
Anne is thrilled when she is invited to have ice cream and lemonade with Diana, who is around the same age and is eager to indulge Anne’s vivid imagination. Friendships with respectful, fun-loving peers have been invaluable to my children because standards are being reinforced in a nonauthoritarian way. It also gives them an outlet for their boundless energy and someone to tell their secrets to.
Marilla is fastidious about Anne saying her prayers and behaving appropriately. Whatever your background is, ethics and faith give adoptees a compass that will guide their consciences and forgive them when they mess up. It is important that they are provided with guidelines and role models so that they know what is expected of them and feel safe moving toward it.
Adoptive parenting is not easy, but like all things, the attitude you choose will make or break you. Laugh a lot, buy new shoes when you want them, and always hold your kids in the very highest regard. You will be forever grateful that you invested your heart and soul in their welfare.
Rebekah Yahoves is a writer, mother, and music teacher from Long Island. In 2016, she adopted three school-aged siblings from Poland at the same time. When she isn't constructing casseroles or tuning violins, Rebekah likes to go on tea binges and read.
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