What ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert Thought Was ‘the Biggest Mistake Of [Her] Life’

Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert never had a doubt in her mind that she was “a good mother.” But then something happened to make her think otherwise. In her 2009 memoir, Prairie Tale, she opens up about one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make as a mom.

Melissa Gilbert at the SAG and AFTRA Celebrities Who Have The Urge to Merge Get Together In Support Of Consolidating The Two Unions at Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.
Melissa Gilbert | James Devaney/WireImage

Melissa Gilbert’s son wanted to move to Texas with his dad

Gilbert and her first husband, Bo Brinkman, were married from 1988 to 1994. Together, they have one child, Dakota. The couple didn’t part on good terms and had a contentious relationship following their divorce. About three years after they went their separate ways, Brinkman decided to move back to Texas, where he was from. Dakota, it seemed, wanted to go with him.

“Until then, I had no doubt that I was a good mother,” wrote Gilbert. “My life wasn’t perfect or traditional, but motherhood was my top priority and I worked my a*s off to give my own two kids the best life possible. But then something happened that put a major crack in my self-confidence. Bo called to tell me that he was moving back to Texas, and then he said the words that hit me like a sledgehammer: Dakota wanted to go with him.”

The Little House on the Prairie actor’s instinct was to tell her ex: “No effing way you’re taking my kid to Texas. Are you out of your mind?” But she bit her tongue and asked Brinkman if she could, first, have a talk with Dakota.

“I sat down with Dakota, and he assured me that he did indeed want to go,” she wrote.

What Melissa Gilbert decided to do

Gilbert sought the advice of her therapist.

“I went into my therapist’s office weeping, wanting to know what was wrong with me that my kid wanted to move to Texas,” she wrote.

“It’s not what’s wrong with you,” the therapist told her, according to Gilbert. “It’s what’s wrong with his father that your kid feels he has to go to Texas to take care of him.”

Bo Brinkman and Melissa Gilbert get interviewed by ET at the performance of "The Cocktail Hour" on April 19, 1990.
Bo Brinkman and Melissa Gilbert | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

‘Little House’ Star Melissa Gilbert’s Ex-Husband Bo Brinkman Blamed Her For Not Having a Career in Hollywood

They talked through the actor’s options — “all of which were going to hurt.”

“Did I want him hating me for the rest of his life because I said no?” she wrote. “Or did I want him hating me for a smaller part of his life because I said yes?”

Gilbert also discussed the situation with her then-husband, Bruce Boxleitner.

“I talked it over with Bruce, who pointed out Dakota would be back for long weekends, holidays, and the summer, so it was just a different way of dividing up the visitation schedule we had already worked out,” she wrote.

‘I had come to terms with letting Dakota go’

“By the time Bo actually moved, I had come to terms with letting Dakota go,” she wrote.

Or so she thought.

“I was fine as I took him to the airport and put him on a plane,” Gilbert continued. “I got about two miles up the freeway before I fell apart. Agonizingly sad, primal screams came out of me, and I pulled off to the side of the road and just wailed. As far as I was concerned, I was no better than my birth mother. I had just given my kid away.”

Gilbert struggled with the decision she’d made for a long time.

“I was convinced I had made the biggest mistake of my life,” she wrote. “It sent me reeling into a depression that I had little time for.”