Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/429

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ventional manner, for the very inferior one of making smart speeches. They are thus forced by the very admiration of their elders into taking conventional instead of unconventional views, and speaking, as it were, to the "gallery" instead of uttering spontaneous truths. Thus—

"Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy"

or girl altogether too soon. The way to promote originality is to leave the mind as long as possible in direct and living contact with things, and, to do that, it is necessary to avoid any great appearance of interest in or astonishment at the judgments the child forms or the phrases it uses. As soon as a child begins to find its own opinions interesting, instead of, as before, finding things interesting, farewell to originality! Will any one say that, if girls were taught how the minds of children might be kept fresh, they would not value the knowledge and, when the time came, try to turn it to account? We hardly think so.

Too vigorous denunciation could scarcely be bestowed upon the fashion so many mothers have of making their children mere instruments of their own vanity. Most mothers, we imagine, even in this advanced age, regard their children as gifts from Heaven; but do they suppose that Heaven gave them children that they might turn them into preposterous human dolls, and prematurely age them with the burden of social follies? Here we see the need of a strong appeal to the mother-instinct of those who are not yet mothers, that they may be led to conceive a horror of sacrificing innocent children to the Moloch of an artificial and heartless society. What do we want manikins, puppets, little bedizened and bemannered creatures full of social spites and rivalries, or children full of healthy impulses, pure, truthful, and loving, of whom it might conceivably be said that "of such is the kingdom of heaven"? Alas, that so many should deliberately choose the former, and these not the less but the more religiously devout members of the community!

One point on which a judicious teacher, addressing girls on the duties of motherhood, would certainly utter a caution, would be as to allowing the mere maternal instinct to run to excess and pass beyond control. The maternal instinct must be considered as having for its object the good of the child; but, like all instincts and passions, it tends to become an object to itself, and then the interest which it is meant to subserve suffers; the child is worried and hampered by the over-abundance of maternal caresses and attentions, to the injury sometimes of its regard for the mother. We are well aware that a perfectly balanced human being is more than the most careful education can be expected to produce; but that is no reason why we should not aim at a desirable and possible balance of faculties—of reason and imagination, of thoughts and emotions, of judgments and impulses. A woman who is all mother does not make the best kind of mother. Cases are not wanting in which an unrestrained excess of the maternal instinct injures the relation between husband and wife and mars the harmony of the household. All this could be illustrated by numerous and varied examples; and this is the kind of knowledge which we maintain might with great advantage be imparted to the rising generation of girls. Why should human happiness be wrecked for want of knowledge which so many could supply from their own experience, and of scientific principles which are the common places of all who think? The time has surely come when motherhood should be redeemed from the automatism of blind instinct and wedded, for its own high purposes, with the force of intellect. We shall be happy if these few words should incite to thought on this most important subject, and cause attention to be paid to it in quarters where, as yet, it has been neglected.