Thursday, January 30, 2014

Needed: A Cure for Insufferable Mothers

You know the type.  You call a "friend" to commiserate over your parenting failures and she professes ignorance.  She's certainly never had that problem with little Timmy.  Why, little Timmy just adores his siblings.  Why, little Timmy is the most adventurous eater.  Why, little Timmy always does his homework the minute he comes home from school.

Well, Betty MacDonald, author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books (there are five and I must confess, so far I've only read the first), knows them well too, and that is yet another reason her books are a delight to read aloud.  If you don't know Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, you are in for a treat.  A lover of children, not having any herself, (sometimes it is easier to deal with them when they are not your own!) she lives in an upside house and has cures for sassiness, sparring siblings, and all other manner of childhood afflictions.  The cures usually consist of giving the child a taste of her own medicine and/or taking her condition to extremes (e.g., providing the Tiny-Bite-Taker with penny-sized portions; letting the non-bather get so dirty that you can plant her with radish seeds).  Not only will you recognize your child's misbehavior in her pages, you will recognize the insufferable mothers (and they are, in the only dated thing about this book, solely mothers).  Ms. MacDonald pokes fun at them, not just by exaggerating their annoying traits (or perhaps just telling the truth!) but by giving them - and their horrid children - the most ridiculous names.

When Patsy won't take a bath, her mother calls her friend Mrs. Grotto for help.  Mrs. Grotto's response? "'Well, frankly, I don't know what to tell you because our little Paraphernalia simply worships her bath.  Of course, Paraphernalia is quite a remarkable child anyway.  Why, Thursday afternoon she said...'"

And when Hubert's mother seeks help in getting him to pick up his toys, Mrs. Bags can't help at all because she "'started Ermintrude picking up her toys when she was six months old.'" 

I suppose the best revenge on such mothers is curing your own child, but we know they are never fully cured.  They simply come down with next illness.  As my pediatrician once told me, at a certain age, children are either sick, getting over being sick, or getting sick.  What is true for illnesses of the body is true for misbehavior, too.  Although we know that the current affliction is "just a phase," we know that as soon as it is over, there will be a new phase to contend with!

If only Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had a cure for insufferable mothers.


  1. I didn't know MacDonald wrote children's books too! I have read several of her adult books and LOVED them - Onions in the Stew, particularly.

    And yes, I do know those parents. Indeedy I do.

    1. Well, that's funny, because *I* didn't know she wrote adult books!! My kids both loved her book Nancy and Plum, which is very, very different from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle - about two orphaned girls - and not as well-written, in my opinion. Now I'll have to check out her adult work - thanks for telling me about it!