Parenting Like Susanna Wesley

By Veronica

I used to work with a woman who came from a family of twelve children. When she described her family, she would complain, often quite bitterly, that she never got to be alone with her mother. My officemate did not talk about all the wonderful traits she had acquired in her large family – the ability to entertain herself, assert herself, and fit in with almost any group of people – but she was insistent that she still felt pain over the lack of time alone with her mother.

I decided that when I had kids, I would make sure each of them had some time alone with me. I had good precedent for this: Susanna Wesley, mother of nineteen children (nine of whom died in infancy), took time each day to speak alone with one of her children, each child having a different day.

Susanna endured many tragedies in her life, and she certainly could not have had much time to herself, but her parenting quite literally changed the world. Two of her sons, Charles and John, began the religious movement known as Methodism. Charles wrote some of the most beautiful hymns in the English language, and he and John helped shape both the Christian church and the culture of the English-speaking world.

So with Susanna Wesley on my mind, I took my three-year-old daughter out on errands with me today. She is the child most difficult to reach sometimes. She has a loathing of being wrong – something she has sadly inherited from me – and withdraws if she feels unsuccessful at a task, or if she feels the least bit rejected by anything. She is phenomenally stubborn. When she gets one-on-one time with me, I cannot predict if it will go well or if she will spend the whole time sullen or in a tantrum. Sometimes I long to reach her heart and make her feel at peace, but have no idea how to do it.

But today was perfect. We went to the bank, the bakery, the pet store and the library, and she spent half the time in my arms. With two younger sisters, she does not get carried much at home. She spent most of the morning pretending to be a snake, hissing her words to me, smiling and snuggling into my shoulder. Her eyes shone more brightly when we got home, I had the wonderful certainty that she ended this day more certain of my love than when she began it.

And at that knowledge, I felt my heart strangely warmed.

When Veronica is giving special attention to each child, she blogs at Toddled Dredge.

18 Responses to Parenting Like Susanna Wesley
  1. Mozi Esmes Mommy
    April 14, 2009 | 1:11 am

    Lovely! Even with just one child, it’s important to spend time letting her know she’s loved. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Tonggu Momma
    April 14, 2009 | 8:23 am

    This was lovely, Veronica. Sometimes I just know, deep in my heart, that this is the very reason our second wait to adopt is so long. The Tongginator is much like your three-year-old. And she has the added challenge of already losing two mothers – her first and her foster mother. She NEEDS this time alone with me. So we wait.

  3. janet
    April 14, 2009 | 9:31 am

    They really do need one on one time. It’s easy to forget in the whirlwind that is life, but it’s so true.

  4. PastormacsAnn
    April 14, 2009 | 10:17 am

    How wonderful. And thanks for encouragement to make each of my children feel special.

  5. feefifoto
    April 14, 2009 | 10:41 am

    Oh, those one on one dates make me very happy because I can feel how happy they make my kids.

  6. Carrie of Ceaseless Praises
    April 14, 2009 | 11:45 am

    That’s wonderful – is there a book about Susannah Wesley’s parenting somewhere??? Or where did you hear about it?

    I hope to have several children & would definitely want to give each some individual attention as often as possible.

  7. Stephanie
    April 14, 2009 | 1:55 pm

    I meant to comment on this earlier from my phone… I absolutely LOVE this post.


  8. Kelly
    April 14, 2009 | 4:58 pm

    I’ve been thinking a lot about one-on-one time lately. It’s easier to get with my younger two. The baby is with me alone the mornings Connor is at preschool, and Connor gets me to himself in the afternoons when Natalie is still in school and the baby naps. But Natalie, our eldest, has no scheduled time.

    I’m going to have to rectify that with a little planning.

  9. Jo
    April 14, 2009 | 6:17 pm

    Really great post. How did Susannah do it!
    I just had the pleasure of spending the afternoon on errands with my eldest, away from the constant demands of his little sister who’s always trying to steal the show. It was delightful. The one on one time is as much a treat for us as it is for them.

  10. angie
    April 14, 2009 | 9:13 pm

    Thank you for the warm encouragement to make the effort to spend time with your children individually. Susanna Wesley was a woman of great faith!

  11. Liz
    April 14, 2009 | 11:40 pm

    Wonderful. My oldest sounds a lot like your three-year-old, but tonight, dinner “out” (in gladware) while I got my haircut (and the subsequent playing in the clippings) was strangely lovely. So nice to have those sweet moments when hoped for, but not expected.

  12. All Rileyed Up
    April 15, 2009 | 9:13 pm

    I bet she loved her day with mom. When I was younger, in the summer when school was out, my mother would take my brothers and sister and I to meet my dad downtown for lunch, but we each got to go on our own day so it was our special day out with dad. Always very exciting.

  13. Elizabeth
    April 15, 2009 | 10:29 pm

    I was determined to have large amounts of alone time with each of my kids, so I spread them out. The first two are 4 years apart and the 2nd and 3rd and 5 years apart. While that was a good thing for our family and I have had years with only one of them home with me all day, I still have to work hard to make sure they each get some of me everyday. It’s hard to accomplish, but I see it’s importance.

  14. Beck
    April 16, 2009 | 10:52 am

    Oh! I wrote something on Susanna Wesley for our church newsletter not too long ago – she WAS an admirable mother and a fine example.

  15. […] My last post at 5MFP was about spending time alone with my second daughter. Since the day I wrote about, she has positively shone with certainty of my love. It has given me […]

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