I’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone, and you’re going to help me with this. Please excuse my insistence, but I’m at my wits’ end. You see, my daughter is turning 11 in just a few weeks, but sometimes I think she thinks she’s turning 21. My daughter knows she can come to me about anything, and she does. But she’s now at the stage where she thinks I couldn’t possibly understand her troubles and have never been in her shoes. Whenever she rolls her eyes at me, sighs, or stomps up the stairs, I remember the words my mother said to me shortly after I gave birth: “In a few years, it’ll be payback time, and I’m just going to sit back and laugh.”
So I came up with this brilliant idea to use your novels as parenting tools. The more I ponder your novels, the more I notice all the little nuggets of wisdom. True, many of these are things I learned myself the hard way long before I lost myself in your words and vibrant characters, but I’m hoping that my daughter will listen to me when I say that these things are true because Jane Austen says so. I’m sure she’ll find these conversations entertaining and will run to tell her friends that her mother is a complete nutjob who takes advice from dead people, but that’s beside the point.
From my prattling about how much I love your books, my daughter already knows the great love stories of Wentworth and Anne and Darcy and Elizabeth; when I compare someone to George Wickham, she knows that’s not a good thing; and she thinks Sir Walter Elliot’s obsession with mirrors is downright hilarious. So I’m hoping that when she comes to me with questions or concerns during those tumultuous teenage years, I can give her some worldly advice and hand her one of your novels to illustrate my point.
Sense and Sensibility: You can and will survive a broken heart.
Pride and Prejudice: Don’t settle, don’t make assumptions, and avoid the George Wickhams of the world like the plague.
Mansfield Park: You don’t have to be popular to end up happy, but don’t be a doormat.
Persuasion: Don’t let past hurts blind you to the present. Time will tell if it’s meant to be.
Northanger Abbey: Dare to dream, but remember that life can’t always be like a novel.
Emma: Don’t meddle, and remember we can all use constructive criticism now and again.
I think these are important things to learn, and while she doesn’t need your novels to understand them and apply them to her life, my ulterior motive is that I truly want her to come to love your novels as much as I do. I hope that she will fall in love with Wentworth and Darcy like I did and aspire to be as strong and courageous as Elizabeth Bennet. I hope she will see you as someone who was every bit as intelligent, witty, and brave as her heroines. But most of all, I hope she will learn that as long as your writings are at her fingertips, many hours of enjoyment lie ahead.
Anna is the author of the blog Diary of an Eccentric, in which she reviews lots and lots of Jane-related goodness. She also contributed a post about her favorite Austen variations, which you can check out here.
We'd love to see your letter to Jane. You can email it to me to be posted during Jane in June, or post it to your blog and share it on the JnJ linky page.
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