Who are your parenting role models? Your own parents? Your friends? Angelina and Brad? The Sears? Mine is old Mrs. Rabbit from the Beatrix Potter books. Her name is Josephine, I believe. She doesn’t feature prominently in the Peter Rabbit story (the one we know best) but she parents well, in my opinion. Plus, she’s a tragic hero; her co-parent was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor. I don’t envy her that.
Old Mrs. Rabbit has shit to do. She doesn’t fret over her four children and spend all day at playrooms sitting on tiny furniture, cutting shapes out of felt and running interference when Flopsy helps herself to someone else’s glue bottle without asking.
She takes care of her kids. She keeps them clothed (even when her youngest loses two little jackets and pairs of shoes in a fortnight!), keeps them well fed, and maintains a tidy burrow. But she also lets them wander. She trusts them. True, perhaps she shouldn’t trust young Peter who disobeys the directive to stay away from Mr. McGregor’s garden; but still she lets them go. Old Mrs. Rabbit must, in the back of her mind, trust that should one of her young rabbits get into a bind there are friendly sparrows who might fly to them in great excitement and implore them to exert themselves. Also there are mice who know the way back to the gate (or don’t know – or know but have such large peas in their mouths that they cannot answer). And because she has not sheltered her children from the outside world, they have grown up to understand that when they see a cat, it is best to go away without speaking to her.
I don’t wish Peter Rabbit’s adventures and frights upon my children. Of course, I would prefer that they were good little bunnies and went down the lane to gather blackberries. In the end, old Mrs. Rabbit is my parenting role model because from where I sit it looks pretty good to be able to simply button up my kids’ coats and say “Now run along and don’t get into mischief. I am going out.”