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Archive for June 3rd, 2011

“There was a little girl, who had a little curl

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good, he was very good indeed,

But when she was bad, she was horrid.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How did this man, this poet and story teller, who died one hundred and ten years before my daughter was born, know her so well, that he could write this piece of her?

Of course now she is nearly nineteen, and all that is left of the little girl, who I would quote this verse to, is … the little curl, right in the middle of her forehead (when it is humid).

How time has flown since then …

Although the verse, quoted above, is the entirety of what Longfellow wrote, Esther and Eloise Wilkin added an entire story (complete with delightful illustrations) to his little masterpiece. And this story was one of my favorite stories, as a child. Now her book “Good Little, Bad Little Girl” is out of print. But their story is one that, as a parent, should be a part of childhood learning.

What Longfellow knew, and wrote of, was:

– you cannot read a book by it’s cover

– outward beauty is not a reflection of inner beauty

– that bad actions and attitude can come, even from one so young

– that the good and bad actions and attitudes can switch, at a moments notice

– that all have the ability to be very, very good, and … very, very horrid

What the Wilkin sisters added to Longfellow’s verse, did not diminish what he wrote, but instead enhanced his verse into a story to learn from. Their story compared and contrasted these two little girls, the good one, and the bad one, who lived in the same house. Now, in reality, the two little girls were actually the same one little girl. The story told simply of how she could be delightfully good (and the positive consequences of that), as well as horribly bad (and the negative consequences of that). In the end, their story provided the reality that doing what is good, or doing what is bad is all about choices, and that we can choose our consequences by our choices.

My, now almost nineteen, daughter is famous in our house for teaching her younger brother ‘a positive attitude is the key to success’ … I think, at least theoretically, that she learned her lesson well. Because she not only caught on to the essence of what she’d had read, but she also realizes that there could be good consequences in teaching this to her brother.

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