Jen is observing Holocaust Remembrance Week at her blog, but this month I'm all about mothers and am blogging accordingly.
The following character is the first who came to mind when I decided to make Mothers the theme for May. There were a few minutes in the draft stage when I thought about starting with a more "high profile" mother character . . . but in the end, I decided to follow my completely subjective heart. Behold one of my all-time favourite mothers in children's literature . . .
by Beverly Cleary
. . . "Mother, I've found a dog. I sure wish I could keep him. He's a good dog and I'd feed him and wash him and everything. Please, Mom."
"I don't know, dear," his mother said. "You'll have to ask your father."
"Mom!" Henry wailed. "That's what you always say! . . . Mom, please say yes and I'll never ask for another thing for as long as I live!"
"Well, all right, Henry. I guess there isn't any reason you shouldn't have a dog. But you'll have to bring him home on the bus. Your father has the car today and I can't come after you. Can you manage?"
Naturally suspicious readers might wonder whether Henry's mother was laying an impossible condition on him. Surely she must have known there was no way he could have brought a dog home on the bus! I tend to think the best of parents in children's books, however, and I doubt my trust in this mother is misplaced. When she tells her son that it was all right for him to bring home a dog, she means it.
I think the best thing about Mrs. Huggins is that she is so willing to let Henry be himself that she can be genuinely surprised at the things he gets himself into. Psychologists have pointed out that children start out thinking of their parents as extensions of themselves. I believe something similar can be said of parents, especially when their children are still young. Hence the delight of many--and the annoyance of some--when their children innocently start asserting their own individuality. Mrs. Huggins could very easily have said no to the new dog and engineered an "ideal" pet scenario for her son--something more convenient for her, like a trip to the pet store on a day she has the car. But she lets her reluctance give way to respect for him as an individual: she can tell that he has already found his ideal pet scenario.
She just doesn't expect it to get as complicated as it does when Henry's new dog causes a commotion on the bus and the driver nearly throws them both into the rain. =P
What follows is the famously sighed, "Henry, what will you do next?" And although her son points out that he only did what she told him to, he obviously takes it as a challenge. Mrs. Huggins' gentle bewilderment at what Henry can come up with runs like a refrain through many of the stories in this book and its sequels. And although we don't always see her reactions to Henry's mishaps, we smile inwardly with him as he muses to his faithful dog, "Won't Mom be surprised!"
Image Source: Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary