Family life

5 parenting lessons from Anne of Green Gables

"1. Even the most spirited kids have good hearts."

By Jennifer Pinarski

Anne-of-Green-Gables-Marillas-blouse Photo of the CBC film version of Anne of Green Gables via Wikipedia

Anne of Green Gables was the first novel I read as a kid. Long after my parents told me to go to bed, I'd hide under the covers with a flashlight and my hard copy of Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved book. I was in third grade and related to Anne in almost every way. Now, as a parent, I'm reading it to my children. My eight-year-old son Isaac isn't all that interested, though he giggles at many of Gilbert Blythe's antics. My daughter Gillian, however, loves the story and I can see her personally connecting with Canada's favourite rambunctious redhead. On the occasion of L.M. Montgomery's 140th birthday (November 30), I thought I'd share some of my favourite moments from Anne of Green Gables—and the parenting lessons I eventually took from them.

1. Even the most spirited kids have good hearts. I've written before about my spirited daughter, who tests me every almost ever day, from breakfast to bedtime. But she's also kind, generous and a good friend to everyone she meets. Residents of Avonlea aren't sure what to make of Anne, but Marilla and Matthew know that she's truly a good-hearted kid.

2. Kids like to pretend they're hair stylists. I can't tell you the number of times Gillian got a hold of my craft scissors and cut her own hair. To be honest, I'd given myself some questionable home haircuts as a kid, too. The lesson is that your kids will sometimes be stuck with bad bang trims—or green hair like Anne—and having to live with it until it grows out is usually enough of a deterrent to them doing it again.

3. Parenting isn't for the weak. Stretch marks? That time your breastfeeding toddler bit your nipple and left a mark? C-section scars? Anne may not have been talking about motherhood when she lamented things that went wrong in her life, but parenting certainly comes with its battle wounds. If you've managed to escape without physical scars, there's always the mental trauma of potty training.

4. Every kid has a "puffed sleeves" stage. One Halloween, I bought my daughter a puffy princess dress. For nearly two years, she wore that dress everywhere, which made car seats and strollers a challenge. Same goes for the superhero costume my son wore to bed for a month straight. But they felt good in what they were wearing even if, like Marilla, I thought they looked ridiculous.

5. It's OK if your kids (loudly) defend themselves. Although Gillian's a blonde and not a redhead, I can easily see Anne's precocious ways in my own daughter. No doubt she'd crack a slate over any boy's head if he dared to pick on her. Teaching my kids to stand up for themselves (including talking about consent) is something that is very important to me.

Anne Shirley is exactly the type of strong female role model I needed as a kid, and her adventurous spirit stayed with me all the way to motherhood. I hope reading Anne of Green Gables to Gillian and Isaac is a memory they'll cherish. And I hope one day they can look back on it and realize they retained a few lessons of their own.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences of giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her@JenPinarski.