“This is my Sunday closet,” she said, showing him shelves filled with picture-books, paint-boxes, architectural blocks, little diaries, and materials for letter-writing. “I want my boys to love Sunday, to find it a peaceful, pleasant day, when they can rest from common study and play, yet enjoy quiet pleasures, and learn, in simple ways, lessons more important than any taught in school. Do you understand me?” she asked, watching Nat’s attentive face.
“You mean to be good?” he said, after hesitating a minute.
“Yes; to be good, and to love to be good. It is hard work sometimes, I know very well; but we all help one another, and so we get on. This is one of the ways in which I try to help my boys,” and she took down a thick book, which seemed half-full of writing, and opened at a page on which there was one word at the top.
“Why, that’s my name!” cried Nat, looking both surprised and interested.
“Yes; I have a page for each boy. I keep a little account of how he gets on through the week, and Sunday night I show him the record. If it is bad I am sorry and disappointed, if it is good I am glad and proud; but, whichever it is, the boys know I want to help them, and they try to do their best for love of me and Father Bhaer.”
“I should think they would,” said Nat, catching a glimpse of Tommy’s name opposite his own, and wondering what was written under it.
Mrs. Bhaer saw his eye on the words, and shook her head, saying, as she turned a leaf
“No, I don’t show my records to any but the one to whom each belongs. I call this my conscience book; and only you and I will ever know what is to be written on the page below your name. Whether you will be pleased or ashamed to read it next Sunday depends on yourself. I think it will be a good report; at any rate, I shall try to make things easy for you in this new place, and shall be quite contented if you keep our few rules, live happily with the boys, and learn something.”
“I’ll try ma’am;” and Nat’s thin face flushed up with the earnestness of his desire to make Mrs. Bhaer “glad and proud,” not “sorry and disappointed.” “It must be a great deal of trouble to write about so many,” he added, as she shut her book with an encouraging pat on the shoulder. (Little Men: Louisa May Alcott, Ch. 3)
What Mrs. Bhaer did for her boys in that chapter has been an inspiration to me since before my children’s birth. I love the attention to character development, but also the discipline of Mrs. Bhaer to write about each boy on a daily basis.
When Jim and I were expecting our first child, Jim’s mother gave us a small folder with notes of her thought’s, doctor visits, and birthing experience of Jim. It was incredible to read through and recount her experience as we brought another generation into the world.
I was inspired and have put my spin on this since before my children were born. I began to write them letter. I tried to be faithful monthly, but it has become more of a yearly endeavor at this point.
I wrote my children about details concerning their life before birth, the birthing experience, and their development as babies. I continued to write them letters as they have grown. I am hoping in time, it will be a wonderful experience for each child to read about long forgotten moments of his or her life. Perhaps those letters will also help my children deepen their understanding of my love for them and my prayers and desires to see each one of them grow up to walk with God.
Unlike Jo Bhaer, I am not writing to them about their weekly sins, but I am writing to each child to tell them about themselves. It is fun, but also a rather tedious upkeep. In time, I do feel it will be of value and a worthwhile endeavor.
So much can be forgotten, lost in the moment. Pictures are lovely, but they do not capture the personhood of someone like words. I am grateful for this early inspirational idea for my children and encourage other young mothers to also take the time to today write to letters for their children’s tomorrow.