"Mother, where can I go, where can I play, what can I do?" Such questions pommeled us continually in town. Small wonder. We lived bang up against a dusty highway, packed tight between two houses, one containing an old couple, the other a lonely old man. Luckily, the old man was deaf. The couple were not. They had raised one family of boys on a farm and were entitled to quiet. But how could I keep it so? Our sandpile, where the children of the neighborhood gathered, was under their dining room window. One day the children were having a hilarious time--in the hammock. Mrs. G--- complained. I did not blame her. Mercy, I wanted quiet myself. But what could I do about it with--well, about twenty children. I sent them to the other side of the house--the deaf side--but there was nothing to do there. A neighbor farther on had an apple tree, though. Soon she called me on the telephone, most righteously indignant: "You're children are in my apple tree, eating all my apples."
So that's where the gang had gone. I called them home. I did not scold. Children have to do something ; the blame is to grownups who don't provide the right something. I simply explained; I was always having to explain. Perhaps I took all the children into the house to make cookies; in times of stress I often did that.
But I did some hard thinking, too; perhaps praying.
"Dear God, put us back on the farm where the children can make all the noise that they want to, and eat all the green apples."
Better a stomach ache than a bruised mind.
If the children were not under my feet I worried about whom they might be annoying. I tried to keep them busy. I hunted paper jobs, and helped them deliver the papers. I pestered my friends: "Haven't you a lawn for a good boy to mow?" So few wanted to bother with boys; they wanted men to do their mowing.
Reading of the wildness of present day youth I knew it would floor me if my children did likewise. That all young people were wild I did not believe, nor would I let mine be--if possible.
I have never wanted my children to "have it easy." The hardening process of life is as necessary to a child's soul as work is to his body. I wanted to teach my children to do what they did not like to do, cheerfully. (A thing, alas, it took their mother long to learn.) I wanted to teach them the dignity of labor and the great truth--so scorned by this age--that they can never be truly happy outside of their work. In no place, that I knew of, could I better teach these things than on a farm.