Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/73

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63
PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

or hear, and the servants seem to know that instinctively. Do not leave them alone with elder children—not even with their own neighbors' and relatives'—till you have satisfied yourself about the character of their new friends. No need of a phrenologist to settle that point: the indications of a child's propensities are not confined to the cranium. Vary the child's diet with the season; put the flesh-pots aside when the approach of the summer solstice threatens the land with the temperatures and temptations of southern Italy. Let them avoid all greasy-made dishes when it is too warm to take much out-door exercise. And, if possible, cultivate their literary taste to the degree that enables them to appreciate the wit or the common-sense of an author, as well as his imagination, and consequently to loathe unmitigated absurdities. That alone will be an effectual safeguard against ninety-nine dime-novels out of a hundred.

In conclusion, I will add a short miscellany of hygienic rules and aphorisms.

The first thing a child should learn is to ask for a drink of water. I have seen hand-fed children scream and fidget for hours together, as if troubled by some unsatisfied want, but at the same time rejecting the milk-bottle and pap-dish with growing impatience. In nine such cases out of ten the nurse will either resort to paregoric or try the effect of a lullaby. I need not say that the poison-expedient would be wrong under all circumstances, but, before you try anything else, offer the child a cup of cold water. To a young nursling the mother's breast supplies both food and drink, but farinaceous paps require a better diluent than milk.

If I should name the greatest danger of childhood, I would unhesitatingly say, Medicine. A drastic drug as a remedial agent is Beelzebub in the rôle of an exorcist.

Our nursery system, after all reforms, is still far from being the right one—how far, we may infer from the fact that we have not yet learned to make our babies behave as well as young animals.

Tight-swaddling, strait-jacket gowns, and trailing petticoats—restraint, in short, makes our infants so peevish. If we would give them a chance to use their limbs they would have no time to scream.

It would prevent innumerable diseases if people would learn to distinguish a morbid appetency from a healthy appetite. One diagnostic rule is this, that the gratification of the latter is not followed by repentance; another, that the former has to be artificially and painfully acquired: our better nature resists the incipience of a morbid "second nature." After acquitting Nature from all responsibility for such factitious appetites, it may be justly said that a man can find a road to health and happiness by simply following his instincts.

The supposed danger of cold drinks on a hot day is a very expensive superstition. It deprives thousands of people of the most pleasurable sensation the human palate is capable of. It is worth a two hours'