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The Infant Early spoiled.
Long ere the voice of Providence has indicated the necessity of other need of support than the mother's milk, the child's stomach is made the repository of substances which were never intended either for beings without teeth, or for those whose teeth, yet hardly apparent as they are, scarcely equal to number the months of their existence. The dear little things see us eat, and manifest, in their ignorance, the curiosity of the mother of all living, to touch, handle and taste, even though they die. And this curiosity, how quickly is it construed by kind friends into real wants ! “ Poor fellow, he is hungry. He is tired of such flashy food, and wants something solid. Dear little fellow ! he knows what is good; he shall have something. Oh, how eagerly he watches the morsel his mother raises to her mouth; a little bit of soft meat won't hurt him; it will strengthen him.”
But a difficulty arises. How shall he masticate it? The difficulty is soon got over: the mother has teeth ; if not, the nurse or sister has. The food is masticated in another's mouth, and perhaps in a mouth full of decayed teeth and connected with a diseased frame-(we have witnessed this)—and is then, with a little urging, sucked down by the child. He scowls, it may be, but no matter for that: “it is good ; it will nourish him ; it will inake him strong.' So, by and by he will suck it down himself; and by and by something else. It is true that half of the best physicians of our day dissuade us from using flesh-meat for children, till they are from two to four years old. But what is science to these loving mothers and nurses? Do not they know better than all the books and doctors in the world, what agrees with their darling children? And above all, do not the children themselves know?
All this while, these foreign substances, received upon the surfaces of membranes for which nature has not yet prepared them, are doing mischief-the mothers and nurses to the contrary notwithstanding. How many of the diseases of infancythe sores, the colds, the eructations, the relaxes, the constipations, the choleras, yes, and the brain and lung fevers, are caused by this single error of stuffing children, before nature intended, with that which nature never designed ; and in quantities, alas! at which nature herself might revolt! Were not children so formed-as if in anticipation of their fate—as to be extremely tenacious of life in their earliest years, not half merely, but three fourths, yes, ninetynine hundredths of them would perish in their veriest infancy and childhood.
For it is not errors in eating alone, though these are prominent enough. Instead of being kept cool, they are usually kept much too hot, during a great part of the time. They must be
Some of our Errors specified.
smothered up in flannel, so we think, winter or summer. They must have their head and feet covered ; and must sleep buried in feathers, perhaps in a cradle. And instead of heaven's pure air and light, at least a part of the time, they must sleep in cradles, or behind curtains, in an unventilated room, with half a dozen or so of other pairs of lungs, either human, canine, or feline, and a crowd of stoves and lamps and candles, to say nothing of gallipots and medicine jars, and other things still more offensive and hurtful.
However filthy the skin, it must not be washed, except once a week or month, and then only in water poisoned with alcohol or some other equally destructive substance, that they may early inhale the poison into their lungs, or others, at least, may enjoy the boon unspeakable ; and the water must be hot enough to scald them, at least a little.
But this reminds us of another error in regard to food. Not only is the feeding begun too early, and its exhibition attended by all the painful circumstances which have been alluded to, but like the water which is applied to the surface, it must first be poisoned or heated. We have seldom known a child to taste, even thus prematurely, the gifts of God in their pristine purity. No; every thing must be salted, and peppered, and spiced, and buttered, and gravied, and soaked, and heated, and moistened, till it is as far removed from the proper condition which nature contemplated, as man is from the purity and bliss of Eden.
And as the child advances beyond the threshold of life, if peradventure he is tough enough to resist the combined efforts of ignorance and kindness to storm life's citadel, and to reach even that threshold, is his condition at all improved ? Does he fare better in regard to food, drink, dress, sleep, air, exercise, and cleanliness? Is his food nature's own viands, in their natural simplicity ? Does he drink from her crystal streams ? Wears he loose and flowing robes ? Sleeps he on a plain bed, and in an open room, alone; or is he immersed in feathers, and smothered with curtains ? Is he allowed by degrees to brave the light, and air, and sunshine, and even storms? Is he taught that the first, and second, and third great means of promoting health, and happiness, and longevity, are action, action, action?
Love of Infancy and Childhood
LOVE OF INTANCY AND CHILDHOOD. [In the work entitled “The Young Wife,' we have insisted, with much earnestness, that one object of the Creator, in the institution of matrimony, is to carry out and complete the great work of self-education, or forming the character. We have supposed that exactly where the parent's influence over a son or a daughter begins to decline, it is the order of Divine Providence that a new influence should come in, the consummation of which is matrimony. In this view we have therefore written the greater part of the chapter with reference to the peculiar duties of a wife in her own education and the education of her husband. Along with these, however, we have interspersed thoughts on collateral topics, among which are those on · Attending the Sick,' and on the · Love of Infancy and Childhood ;' the last of which we have concluded to insert in this journal.]
• It may strike some readers as singular, that I should lay it down as a duty of the young wife, to cultivate a love of infancy and childhood. Every one loves children, it will be said, and when such a love is wanting, all the rules in the world for developing or cultivating it will do no good.
But it is not true that all persons have a genuine love of infancy and childhood. A person may have a sort of instinctive love of children, because they happen to be her own relatives or friends, without a particle of that feeling to which I now referthe love of infancy and childhood for its own sake. Perhaps this trait might be included under the word simplicity, taken in its largest sense ; but it is so prominent and so important a trait of human character, that it seems best to devote to its consideration a separate chapter.
The love of infancy and childhood leads us to take an interest in the things which delight and interest children. And however we may explain the fact, or whether it is at all explicable or not, we believe nothing is better proved than that the free intercourse of the old with the young, greatly conduces to the health and longevity of the former. The following remarks are from the distinguished Dr Gregory, of Edinburgh.
“Old people would find great advantage in associating rather with the young than with those of their
own age. The conversation of young people dissipates their gloom, and communicates a cheerfulness, and something else, perhaps, which we do not fully understand, of great consequence to health, and the
Great Gulf between Children and Parents.
prolongation of life. There is a universal principle of imitation among mankind, which disposes them to catch instantaneously, and without being conscious of it, the resemblance of any action or character that presents itself. We have numberless examples of this, in the similitude of character and manners induced by people living much together.
“An old man, who enters into this philosophy, is far from envying, or proving a check on the innocent pleasures of young people, and particularly of his own children. On the contrary, he attends with delight to the gradual opening of the imagination, and the dawn of reason; he enters, by a secret sort of sympathy, into their guiltless joys, that revive in his memory the tender images of his youth, which, as Mr Addison observes, by length of time, have contracted a softness inexpressibly agreeable; and thus the evening of life is protracted to a happy, honorable and unenvied old age.”
Nor is familiar intercourse with the young much less conducive to the health and happiness of persons in middle age. It is recommended, therefore, to every young wife, to interest herself as much as may be, in the amusements, employments and conversation of children. Or, if she is naturally inclined to do so, she will do well to preserve assiduously the habit.
I have been surprised at the difference of mankind, in regard to the point in question. Some very excellent people never appear to have the least possible sympathy with infancy and childhood. Indeed, children seldom approach them in a free, familiar manner; or if they do, they seem to discover, as if by instinct, their disposition, and soon make their retreat.
It is a most unfortunate circumstance, that fashion, and custom, and business, have fixed such a great gulf between children and adults, and especially between children and the aged. Children live in the future, and naturally-1 had almost said instinctively-delight in hearing the conversation of those who are older. And yet the latter, who live in the past, and delight as much in relating what they have seen and heard, as children do in hearing it, seem, for the most part, to stand aloof from them, and even to bury this fund of instruction in the grave of their decaying faculties. Why is this gulf of separation kept up, to the great loss of all parties and of the world? Let us be grateful to Heaven that attempts are beginning to be made to pass it, the results of which cannot be otherwise than successful and happy.
The love of juvenile character which I recommend is greatly conducive to intellectual improvement. Those who associate much with children, seem to make far greater mental progress,
Example of the Saviour.
than persons in other circumstances. “Teaching we learn, and giving we retain ;” and it is scarcely possible to be much with the young, without falling into the habit of instructing them.And this habit of hearing and answering infantile and juvenile questions, is highly favorable to the development of our own minds. It is so when all we do for them is in the way telling. The single habit of telling stories to the young.--especially of striving to excel in it—with a view to gain their attention, and please and interest them, is of great value.
This disposition conduces greatly, in a young wife, to her own happiness. The young instinctively love, and ultimately respect those who sympathize with and love them—those to whom they can go when they please, with all the freedom and frankness with which they approach their playmates. And as they grow up into the world, their respect for such elder friends continues and increases. But is it not a source of happiness to an individual, to find herself surrounded by a rising generation who all esteem and love her ?
Must not this state of things also greatly interest and contribute to the happiness of the husband? Can he see the companion of his choice gaining in vigor and elasticity of body and mind, and securing the love and confidence of those around her, without being himself made happier ? Nay, more ; what husband is there in the world, who is one degree above the brute, who will not love, better than before, the wife who sympathizes with and loves children?
In short, I regard the love of childhood --simple, artless and pure as childhood in itself is—to be an important element of christian character. I have heard of—ay, I have known-persons who disliked children, some of whom were, in other respects, excellent men and women. But such a trait is certainly a great drawback upon human excellence. I will not say that they who hate infancy and childhood cannot be christians; but I may say that they cannot be, in this state of feeling, the perfect men and women they desire to be, nor the perfect children of their Father in heaven which they ought to be.
For do they not practically forget the affection-I was going to say the reverence for the infantile nature, which was manifested by Him who said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven?" Do they not forget, or at least overlook the fact, that our Lord and Redeemer was a great lover of infancy, childhood, and youth? And though they are sometimes tempted to turn aside, almost with a sneer, when they see adults and even old people caressing the young, would they turn away with disgust at the sight of our common Lord with little infants in his arms, and