Desperately Seeking Ingalls

Often, as I’m sitting with the children, I’ll start thinking about parenting in general. When this happens, I usually find myself pouring over the stories of the idolized families of my youth. The Ingalls, in particular.

No one ever yelled when things went wrong, there were plenty of bedside or kitchen table chats and we all learned something.

It was a beautiful life, but, not without heartache. It was as real as I wanted real life to be. It was flawed and difficult, but, love conquered all. Everyone wore their insides as clearly as the bonnets or coats dressing their bodies. The love for each other so obvious it was their most beautiful accessory.

This world of parenting is so starkly different in comparison. The access to absolutely everything we need and most of what we want. With so much to be thankful for, I find myself lusting after those days of less.

Carrie running down the hill and quiet evenings in dark rooms with the squeaking of the bunk bed stairs signaling some naughty adventure. I would not sew, but, my husband and I would bond over a table he made. Possible, but, not realistic. The world has changed. We have adapted.

I know, intellectually, it is not living like the Ingalls that makes one an Ingalls. It is living a genuinely giving and loving life. Family first. Family forever.

I love my children. There is no doubt. Like an internal bleed; you can not find the source, this love is everywhere. But, I am constantly comparing my reality to the pie baking, cart and horse mother lodged in my subconscious. Parenting does not look the way I imagined. It sometimes feels more routine than full of grace and spectacular teaching moments. There are hazy days and days when I wonder if I’ve been connecting at all as we wander through moments that feels like yesterday and every day.

How can something that looks so different still be authentic? Still be good enough? Can I be a both a great writer and a great mother? When they say, “Mommy, you’re the best mommy ever?”, will I ever believe them?

I have to remind myself that I am their Ma Ingalls even with my typing fingers and my flaws and I may not make them clothes, but, I write their stories. We are all part of each other and we need each other desperately even though I can not always mend hemlines and hearts over only the light of the hearth.

And, it is indeed a beautiful life, but, not without heartache. It is flawed and difficult, but, I still think love conquers all.

This reality is just as real as my beloved Little House on the Prairie, though it looks and feels different to the touch; this family is perfect in its own way in this home where family is forever and kitchen table chats bring laughter, spilled milk and so-and-so dipped in my ketchup and yes, even sometimes, those big moments when we all learn something.


  1. I’m not one of the Ingalls, either. I lament it, though I bet if I met Ma Ingalls at a school open house, we wouldn’t be friends. 😉

    • Bethany says:

      Well, she’d have to take the cart and horse to the open house and by the time she got there, it would be summer vacation.

  2. I’d rather live in your family than the Ingalls. And they only got to go into town a few times a year, or at least that’s how I remember it. That part made me really sad for them.

    • Bethany says:

      Thank you! I don’t know, the general store was pretty cool, BUT, on the flip side, everyone dying was not very cool.

  3. I love this so hard- you know I do.
    I think of Ma and her firm and kind ways all the time. Pa- how he never swore or lost his temper. I’m trying to create an idyllic childhood for my kids, even if it’s Target and not the Mercantile that we get to visit. It’s just what you make of it, right?

    • Bethany says:

      Yes, it is. I just would like to not have electricity or the interwebs for a few-ish days and then my Ingalls bliss would be fulfilled. Mostly. I guess I could just become Amish. Would they have me? Doubtful.

  4. Beautifully written!

  5. Little House does loom large for us kids who grew up in the 80s, doesn’t it? You will always be that model mom to your kids, and they will marvel at all you do as both an independent woman and a mother. Love that you got Ingalls on us – thanks for a great post!

    • Bethany says:

      Thanks, mama. I truly feel like the LHOTP books and show are such a big part of who I am. When my daughter first cracked open Little House in the Big Woods, I cried. Part of our collective soul.

  6. Aaaah! What a gorgeous beautifully written post! I know what you mean though! Gosh, Mums on the telly that never yell. Really? It makes the rest of us paranoid.

    • Bethany says:

      Thank you. Yes, the non yelling, big life lessons every episode families…they set the bar so very high. Usually I’m happy when I’ve managed to shower and find clean pants.

  7. So sweet! I loved LHOTP, too, and always thought I would love to go back to a simpler time. But then I remember my indoor plumbing and my 12 pk. of Charmin Ultra Soft and I come to my senses…

  8. I kid you not, my sister and I were JUST talking yesterday about how much we adored the whole Little House thing as kids and thought it would be the coolest thing EVER to live like the Ingalls clan. Can I just say two words though? Sod house. They lived in a freaking house made of dirt for a while. Like hobbits. WTF? I know for sure I would not be able to handle that.

    • I guess, on the flip side, there was only the weekly bath in the creek though and no one was really “dirty” since you were living inside a dirt house. There’s a life lesson here. Let those without dirt, cast the first stone…please cast several, so we can make a stone house.

  9. I absolutely loved this with all my heart! And you neatly tied it in with that thought that’s been in the back of my brain lately that has been telling me I should re-read those books I loved so much.

    • Thank you so much, Gigi. My eldest is now reading the series. It is lovely to watch her discover this family.

  10. Great job, Half Pint!

  11. Once again, great post, so beautiful! I agree but dang I wish we could find a happy medium….like still have electricity, beer at the corner market, and cars, but just for life to slow down a little bit….guess you can’t have the best of both worlds. Maybe at some point alog the journey from then to now they had it…like the 70’s! All the drugs and happy peace, maybe that’s where I want to land. 🙂 <3 Devan

    • Thank you, Devan. Have you seen The Village? I think I’d like it like that, but, with antibiotics. Antibiotics are key.

  12. You are THEIR best mother ever, there’s no arguing that.

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