Martha B Mosher.

Child culture in the home. A book for mothers online

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is inconvenient to many, the next best time is
before dinner, after the exercise and recreation

194 Child Culture

of the afternoon have rested the brain from
the fatigue of school work. An hour and a
half before dinner for the heavier and more
difficult work, and an additional hour and a
half for the lighter studies just before bedtime,
are all that any schoolgirl or boy should be re-
quired to give outside of school hours ; and for
children under ten, half that time should suf-
fice. No child should be either urged or per-
mitted to study longer, as from seven to nine
hours a day of mental effort are all that the
brain or eyes can endure without injury.

A child's natural modesty should never be
marred by word or deed. It is my belief that
it is always violated if the child is bathed or
undressed by a stranger after his sixth year;
unless he has a nurse to whom he is habituated
for this attention the mother herself should
assist him. Maids too often jokingly, coarsely
or otherwise, molest the sense of decency that
every properly trained child feels, so that after
the age of consciousness, he should be guarded
from such opportunities; he should have his
own dressing-room and never be exposed even
to the view of other children. Modesty soon
becomes a fixed habit, and its possessor will
respect it in others and rebel against any viola-
tion of it in himself. Modesty and decency of
conduct do not insure purity, but they are
elements thereof. Not only is ignorance not

Habits of Childhood 195

purity but it is oftener the destroyer than the
conservator of it, and many girls and boys
adopt unclean practices from utter ignorance of
their injury and bad effects. Before twelve
years, they can only be closely guarded and
watched, with a general caution not to tamper
with their bodies. After that age, it is the
mother's duty to make some explanation to the
girl and boy, which shall impress upon them the
sacredness of sex and somewhat of its func-
tions. Many mothers dislike doing this, fear-
ing they may be robbing their children of their
innocence. There are few cases in which such
information at the age named would be pre-
mature, since girls and boys after that age will
observe, will be curious, and will receive expla-
nations from some source, and it can be given
by no one so judiciously and with such a con-
servation of purity as by the mother. There
may be some advantage in communicating this
knowledge earlier, but there are also many ob-
jections to premature disclosures, and in most
cases, if the associations have been right, cu-
riosity is not awakened earlier. If a child how-
ever asks, and his reason is sufficiently devel-
oped to understand, the mother can explain as
far as she thinks wise, or will satisfy him, but it
SHOULD BE THE TEUTH as far as it goes, and
the subject should never be treated otherwise
than with earnestness and respect.



THE more one observes the development of
human nature, the more is one impressed with
the fact that next to the irretrievableuess of
birth comes the irretrievableness of early train-
ing and education. The momentum of life and
endeavor receive direction during the early
years, and right inspiration must be given
while the heart and mind are plastic, and be-
fore the habits are completely formed, else one's
nature becomes less receptive to it. Habits are
partly formed before the age of consciousness,
but the spiritual inspirations come after that
period, and he who welcomes their advent con-
tinues to have moral awakenings all through
life ; if, however, during the impressionable
period the inspirations are disregarded, their
voice becomes less and less distinct. When one
realizes the stupendous responsibility involved
in the training of the young heart and mind
and how often the opportunity is lost in igno-
rance and neglect, one must deeply deplore that
the importance of this training is so often un-

At the critical time when the ideas are awak-

Habits of Youth 197

ening, when the heart is searching for its
anchorage and the character is building, the
minds of innumerable boys and girls receive no
higher nourishment than that afforded by the
study of arithmetic, history, geography, some-
times a little music and dancing; and the
thoughts are entirely occupied with these and a
few pastimes. The deeper motives and high
principles of life are either ignored, or are made
secondary; how can nobleness and high-mind -
edness issue from such sowing ? The good
grain must be sown all along, and though it
may be for a time apparently unproductive,
some day it will put forth the blade and come
into ear ; when the need comes the growth will
be revealed.

Happiness is not dependent on material con-
ditions except in the imaginations of those who
view life falsely ; pleasure may be increased by
a plethoric purse, but pleasure and happiness
are themselves frequently divorced, and is not
that happiness which is not dependent on sen-
suous enjoyment the higher and the more en-
during? If pleasure has been the object of
existence in early life, when one reaches the
meridian and is less eager for the enjoyments
which animal spirits crave, life seems very dark
and unattractive because the higher intellectual
and spiritual resources have been undeveloped.

It is not advised that young men and women

198 Child Culture

renounce the world and all its pleasures, but
that these shall not always have first place to
the exclusion of the nobler aims of life. Urge
upon young men the value of a symmetrical
development so that while they need not deny
the benefits of money and of business energy
and enterprise, they do not make of material
gain a Juggernaut Car that shall override and
crush out all the better spirit and nobler ele-
ments of life. Impress upon them that its
possession is not worth doing wrong for, that
nothing in this life is worth doing wrong for;
also that with the acquisition of wealth they
shall recognize the responsibility and moral
guardianship thereof. Teach them that almost
more difficult than knowing how to acquire is
knowing how wisely and beneficially to expend
it ; that it must not be a means of self-indul-
gence only, but a power of good for others as

Young men should be educated to appreciate
the higher qualities of womanhood, the pure
soul, the strong conscientiousness, the womanly
tenderness, and where these can be found
united with a sound education there is a basis
of a happier marriage than one in which the
attraction is a pretty face, a shapely figure and
a goodly fortune.

It depends on the man's education and the
influences of his own home life what qualities

Habits of Youth 199

he will seek in a wife, and if his own principles
are fixed and his nature elevated above purely
sensual lurings, he will consider the right quali-
fications in the selection of his life companion.
A young man can surround himself with no
greater safeguard than a confidential relation
with his mother ; many young men consider it
a concomitant of their manhood and growing
dignity to be very reticent about all their af-
fairs as soon as they commence associating with
young women, thus depriving themselves of a
potent influence at a time when it is most ad-
vantageous. A few mothers are indiscreet and
do not well guard the confidences that are re-
posed in them, and this naturally causes a
young man to discontinue them. If the mother
is wise and has the right sympathy with human
nature as manifest in the youthful heart, if she
sacredly guard confidential disclosures, her sons
and daughters will be encouraged to confide in
her. It depends on the spirit in which the con-
fidences are met whether the confider will con-
tinue to hold them desirable ; if the mother is
harsh, or curious, or too communicative, she
has only herself to blame, if the cautious con-
siders these disadvantages ; but the joy and
profit of a frank relation between a wise mother
and son, or between mother and daughter, is
inestimable. When it is denied a careful in-
vestigation of the cause may convince the

200 Child Culture

mother that either she has not sought it or that
she has, by injudicious treatment, forfeited the

The evils of intemperance are so undeniable
and work such havoc with the material, moral
and mental condition of so many otherwise
good and capable men that it should not be
necessary to warn a young man against such a
danger. Somewhere I have said that the possi-
ble abuse of a good thing should not vitiate the
right use of it ; but, except as medicines, are
alcoholic spirits ever a good thing ? Even as
such, there are excellent substitutes that are far
less perilous. If one considers in the abstract
the lunacy of anyone putting a bottle of mad-
ness into his brain, one realizes the weakness
of drinking intoxicating beverages. The ex-
cuse, of course, always is, that a little is not
injurious, but rather beneficial, and every drunk-
ard was at first a confident, temperate drinker.
True, there are temperaments that never de-
velop an inordinate taste for strong drinks, that
never lose the power to taste and stop. Yet so
long as there are thousands struggling with
Laocoon fierceness to cast off the dreadful ser-
pent that has enveloped them, so long as the
harmless limit is being constantly passed by
those who held themselves proof against it, and
so long as crimes, suicides and the records of
police courts and insane asylums bear testi-

Habits of Youth 201

mony to the strength of its grasp and its deg-
radations, the only safe course for a young
man, who can have no assurance of the immun-
ity of his temperament from the fatal taste, is
entirely to decline. Until the taste for drink
and the habit of intemperance are acquired, it
can be no hardship to abstain from the use of
liquor, and when the benefits and dangers are
so disproportionate the wisdom of total absti-
nence must be conceded.

Tobacco, owing to the presence of the poi-
sonous nicotine in its composition, injures the
brain, deranges the nervous s} r stem, lowers the
life forces, and injures the heart and lungs. To
the young it is more injurious than to the ma-
ture man, for in the former it saps the founda-
tions of health, and dwarfs the body and mind
before they have attained their full develop-
ment. To the highly organized temperament,
to the man whose sensibilities are heightened
by culture, and to men of sedentary occupa-
tions, it is an unmitigated evil, for the more
sensitive the nerves, the more is the irritation
felt, and the professional man has not the
counteraction of physical exercise that the
laboring man has. The cigarette habit is the
worst form of the use of tobacco, and the insane
asylums of to-day are being constantly recruited
from excessive smokers of the cigarette ; if the
habit of smoking must continue, then to reduce

202 Child Culture

the evil to a minimum, let it be limited to a
moderate use of the cigar. The derangement
of the nervous system by the use of tobacco
suggests the use of the more soothing and
sedative alcohol, and tobacco users are always
easier victims to the more dangerous habit of
alcoholic intemperance.

The greatest obstructions to the higher de-
velopment of young womanhood are the en-
snarements of the pleasures and frivolities of
life. If inordinate vanity and inordinate love
of pleasure could be stricken from the category
of feminine weaknesses the elevation of wom-
an's thought and the purification of her charac-
ter would be greatly promoted. These weak-
nesses are the barnacles that weigh down
woman's spiritual and intellectual nature more
frequently than all others. A false view of
life engenders a love of display, a strife for
social prestige and a desire to outshine com-
panions until these ambitions become the lead-
ing motives of life. Right home education and
a distilling of the principles of true Christianity
should correct such false views and afford nobler
visions of the great spiritual and intellectual
possibilities of her nature. Good morals are a
woman's greatest strength, and though a high
standard for herself and her girl friends is usu-
ally exacted, the character of the gentlemen
friends is often overlooked or condoned. She

Habits of Youth 203

cannot always avoid meeting men of doubtful
morals, but she can prevent such from visiting
her if their laxity be known. At least the
acquaintance of a known libertine should be
declined, and admission in the home and to
one's friendship only accorded those of irre-
proachable morals.

One of the greatest trials to which a woman
is subject, is when she becomes the victim of
an unrequited affection. It is doubtful if even
the fulfilment of the suggestion of radical
thinkers that women may indicate their prefer-
ence to the point of proposing themselves,
would remedy the painful experience. If the
object of her affections is interested, he will
not be slow to ascertain the extent of her in-
terest, and if he is not, she would only add
humiliation to her already unhappy condition.
There are many delicate ways of expressing
one's preference if one feels safe in doing so,
and the idea of woman's taking the initiative
is so repugnant to men as well as to most
women that its further consideration is useless.
If a woman finds herself succumbing to a love
possibly unreciprocated, she can stifle it in the
beginning by avoiding its object, and this
method though a courageous one, will save her
greater misery. If the partiality is already well
advanced before she realizes or admits it, she
cannot escape suffering, and will have to bear

204 Child Culture

the inevitable with fortitude, and seek the
remedies of intense intellectual activity, physi-
cal exercise, prayer, and above all time. By
indulgence love becomes more unmanageable,
and the only safeguard is a strict avoidance of
the dangerous pleasure of the young man's
society. Such action entails great self-disci-
pline, but the advantage of this self-control to
the character is ver}' great. The offer of a
young man's heart is the greatest compliment
that can be paid one, and if it is not accepted
the declining should be made in a way to afford
him as little mortification as possible, as the
disappointment itself is a sufficiently severe
blow. The refusal, however, should be unmis-
takable, that his hopes may not be fed ; it is
kinder to have no uncertainty. When a young
man's attentions become marked and one is
resolved against the suit, the resolve should be
indicated, for it is very cruel to coquette with
a young man's feelings only to overthrow them
at last. Under any circumstances such pro-
posals should be held sacred, and no one but
the girl's parents is entitled to know of them.
Many girls are so proud of their conquests that
they lure lovers to the point of declaring them-
selves and then boast of their victories; such
heartless coquetry is in the last degree selfish
and reprehensible, and the vaunting of one's
proposals unwomanly and in the worst possible

Habits of Youth 205

taste. The acceptance of valuable gifts from
gentlemen is also to be deprecated, and books
or flowers occasionally or as anniversary pres-
ents, are all that should be received. The be-
stowal of gifts by anyone should be recognized
as a privilege on the part of the giver as well
as of the recipient, for refined persons have a
delicacy in being placed under obligations to
persons whom they do not especially esteem.
The fittest expression of one's good feeling arid
generosity is a gift of one's own workmanship.
Such presentation is not only a greater compli-
ment but also evinces greater sincerity than
does the giving of a purchased present.

However warm one's friendship may be, or
however close the association, a certain degree
of reserve should be maintained, and the
privacy of one's most intimate friend should
be respected. Young women should also guard
against the folly of confiding their private
affairs to their friends, enjoining on them a
secrecy they are not able to observe themselves ;
for nothing is truer than that if one cannot
guard one's own tongue in behalf of one's own
interest, one cannot expect that the confidante
will practice greater self-control. One, too, is
so often deceived in the loyalty and disinterest-
edness of one's friends, and in the enthusiasm
of friendship one's faith in the other's constancy
is apt to be very exalted. At the same time we

206 Child Culture

should be worthy of the confidence of those
who trust us, and when we have pledged our-
selves to secrecy we should be as scrupulously
faithful to it as to an oath, and never receive
confidences that we do not intend to respect.

The office of true friendship is to aid one's
friend to his best development, to warn him
when he is doing wrong, to suggest the flaw in
his character or conduct, and to guard him
against a secret enemy and against his own im-
prudence. This ideal relation is possible only
between persons of rare sagacity and breadth
of character ; nevertheless it is the perfect re-
lation. The true friend does not carry inex-
cusable and causeless gossip which is only vi-
cious and information of which the recipient is
powerless to avail himself; but if slander is
abroad, and the knowledge of it enable the
slandered friend to refute or dislodge an unjust
accusation, then it is the office of friendship to
warn and to give the friend an opportunity of
justifying himself.

Perhaps, instead of enumerating the various
errors and quicksands into which thoughtless
girls and young women are apt to be drawn, a
suggestion of the principles which should guide
their conduct would be briefer and more profit-
able. If they will establish and adhere to a
line of conduct including only the highest
standards ; if they will live less at random, but

Habits of Youth 207

will study themselves, their powers and passions,
and marshal these into a perfect possession,
this self-knowledge, self-mastery, and self-con-
fidence, at once give motive and direction to
their thoughts and conduct. Perfect self-pos-
session is necessary to perfect poise of mind
and character, and the greatest essential of
all improvement is to find oneself. Self-pos-
session is self measurement, and they who do
not measure themselves make little progress in
their own development. This self-confidence
will also evolve the courage which enables a
man or woman to live his or her own life, and
not to be directed by the opinion of others, but
by personal convictions, fearing nothing but the
reproaches of the small voice that rises noise-
lessly within.

There is much agitation in current times over
the preeminence of the sexes, whether man is
superior intellectually to woman, or woman to
man ; whether he is more capable, whether she
is more moral, and though the disadvantages
which originally precipitated these questions
have been largely removed, the discussion still
continues. Sex is not chiefly a physical differ-
ence, nor is intellect more characteristic of one
sex than of the other, but the distinction of sex
is in spirit; it is the masculine or feminine soul
that makes a true man or woman. Sometimes
a physical man has the spiritual attributes of

208 Child Culture

woman ; sometimes a physical woman has the
masculine spirit ; but the highest order of men
and women are they who possess their own
quality in the highest degree. A woman may
have a Titanic mind and still possess the highest
womanly qualities of soul the eternal feminine;
there is no incompatibility between a high
order of intellect and ineffable tenderness,
womanly receptivity, and perfect purity, though
the prejudice of the world has impeded the de-
velopment of this combination. Both sexes are
necessary to the best progress of the world ; in
the family the man and woman have joined
hands and interests and walk abreast, neither
in advance of the other ; why cannot this worthy
precedent be adopted in the civil, social and in-
dustrial world as well ? Let both be recognized
and both aid in the administration of affairs,
the man doing the more aggressive work as
befits his masculine endowments, and the
woman doing the no less important but more
feminine part. No woman will be drawn into
political fields except those who are especially
fitted therefor ; and women whose hearts are by
nature domestic will remain domestic ; no ropes
can hold to that sphere those who are not so

Through intellectual and ethical evolution
woman will gradually come into all her rights
and powers, if she only keep the goal in view,

Habits of Youth


and no revolution or agitation will procure them
to her so speedily as will a faithful development
of her best self, and a faithful rendering of the
obligations already hers.



TURNING to the strictly practical side of
home life, there is much knowledge of the
house proper, its care and economy, that is not
only advantageous but indispensable to its good

The modern house is fitted with a complica-
tion of pipes that are necessary for its ventila-
tion, heating, water supply, lighting and re-
moval of waste matter. From these, so long as
they are in good repair and properly cared for,
little or no danger arises, but when they are
out of condition they distil poisonous gases,
dealing sickness and death to the occupants
who breathe them. Correct construction of the
drains and proper connection with the house
are insured in cities by the surveillance of san-
itary authorities, but the care of the interior
traps and basins and the ventilation of the
house are often neglected. How seldom does
the air of a house seem pure and sweet to one
entering from the fresh air outside ; when, how-
ever, one has breathed the same air for a short
time, the impurity is less noticeable, yet the air
inside should always bear comparison with the

Domestic Economy 21 1

oxygen laden air of outdoors, and a stuffy, close
atmosphere indicates ill ventilation.

Many diseases are slowly produced by con-
tinued breathing of bad air, and the source is
seldom suspected because its effects are so
gradual. The blood that circulates through
the body and carries vitality to the tissues is
pumped from the heart to the lungs for aeration,
and when it has made the circuit of the body,
returns to the heart impoverished and charged
with foul air, and must each time be supplied
with fresh oxygen in the lungs which relieves
it of the impure gases that it brings ; this cor-
rection is in proportion to the supply of pure
fresh air that it there receives. When the
oxygen is not forthcoming the poisoned car-
bonic acid gas continues to circulate through
the system in its devitalized condition, and de-
vitalizing all the organs which it is intended to
nourish, makes them an easy prey to germs and
various diseases. The sources of impure air in
the dwelling are the exhalations of the inmates
and the products of combustion derived from
artificial lights and food, and were it not for the
air that sifts through doors and windows, crev-
ices and even the walls of houses, one could
only live in them a comparatively short time.
Open grates and hot air draughts are the usual
means of securing change of air, and when these
are lacking, ventilation should be provided by

212 Child Culture

other indirect inlets and outlets, in order not
to depend on the direct draught of windows in
cold weather.

Sunshine is another essential of good health,
and should be admitted into every room a part of
each day. Especially should the children's
nursery be the sunniest room of all, for dark
rooms not only render children delicate but are
very depressing to the spirits. In the selection
of a dwelling, there is no more important con-
sideration than a sunny exposure and plenty of
windows for the admission of light with which
no consideration of carpets should interfere,
for it is better for them to bleach and pale
than for the inmates of the house to do so ; and
then one can always find floor coverings that
the sun does not damage.

The waste pipes of a house should be under-
stood by the housekeeper, as should the manner
of ventilating and flushing the pipes, and the
special kind of trap in use ; foul germs are
generated in the sewers, which, if not guarded
against, will find their way into the house ;
lavatories, sinks, baths and basins are sources
of danger if not properly managed. Frequent

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Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 11 of 13)