Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/749

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CHILDHOOD FROM A MEDICAL STANDPOINT.

factor in the evolution of the individual we touch at this point. We need the mother's influence and the father's influence in the family, and also the influence of the children on each other. First children, last children, only children, children of small and large families, all have their special attributes and defects. The child is receiving and adjusting every instant, impressions that will positively determine not only his future career but his bodily structure. Parents and care-takers must see that these impressions are useful and true. The means in the control of the physician are as nothing compared to home influences and conditions in shaping a healthy mind and body. The reactions most frequently evoked will be the dominating ones. As Bacon puts it: "Therefore since Custome is the principle Magistrate of a Man's life; let Men by all Means endeavour to obtain good Customes. Certainly Custome is most perfect when it beginneth in Young Years. This we call Education; which is in effect but an early Custome"; or as another says: "In the conduct of life, habits count for more than maxims, because habit is a living maxim, become flesh and instinct. To reform one's maxims is nothing; it is but to change the title of the book. To learn new habits is everything, for it is to reach the substance of life. Life is but a tissue of habits" (Amiel's Journal, page 7). All of which applies as cogently to the physical as to the mental. "Nothing has ever been invented to take the place of a 'bringing up.'" The home has been compared to the ship-yard where the vessel's construction is slowly and painstakingly elaborated step by step, so that the structure may be able to outride the strains and disintegrating tendencies that are sure to attack it later, just as the growing human organism is built up, under fostering influences, by the gradual incorporation of helpful habits and useful physical reactions. Self-control and transparent honesty in the parent are as essential as obedience and self-reliance in the child. "He that will have a cake of the wheat must tarry in the grinding." The child does not exist who can grow up natural or healthy without a fair share of wholesome neglect and judicious exposure. Few realize the tremendous risk of over-caution and over-attention. A youngster is invariably happier with few and simple playthings than with a multitude of complicated toys. There is no such good fun or good training as making one's self useful, and it is cruelty to deprive the child of this pleasure and stimulus. Let the brain and body be trained through hand, foot, and eye. Dump a load of sand into the back yard and let the children roll in it. Give the boys a carpenter's bench; encourage the girls to do housework. Where possible, let both boy and girl have a little garden-patch, if only a few feet square, and the care of a few plants. A woman in her home, a man in his garden: this seems