Imágenes de páginas


habit; and in these causes may we trace all laxity and want of principle in their maturer years.

But of all food for curiosity, none is equal to that furnished by nature in the open air. So delightful are the fields, walks, gardens and meadows, that however fretful child may be in the house, he cheers


and is good in the moment that he feels the breath of heaven play over his face; that he beholds the wide expanse above, the trees, grass, vallies and water around, and the birds, lambs or poultry moving in different directions. Every tear is dried away ; every faculty is upon the stretch ; every sense is lulled in enjoyment. Admiration is wound up to a high pitch, and yet curiosity is passive. It becomes active, however, if we break off a bough and give the child ; if we give him a daisy, or if we set him down on an enamelled sunny bank, the busy hand soon grasps a blade of glass, and that is immediately felt, examined, and tasted.

Persons who reside in great cities during the whole year, may not have opportunities to send their children into fields and meadows, nor may they always find it convenient to send them for walking in the royal parks ; but they certainly have it in their power, with respect to other resources, to gratify the ardent curiosity of children in a judicious and careful manner, always keeping a guard over themselves, and laying down certain rules of right and wrong, from which no temptation or feeling should prompt them to deviate ; infants will then learn what they are to depend upon, and mothers may know what they have a right to expect in their children,



Having given a few remarks upon curiosity, we must consider the desire or wishfulness of infancy, as springing from wants, real and artificial.

As an infant has no speech, and but little action in its first months, we have no means of distinguishing its particular feelings. A short plaintive cry is the only warning we have of its uneasiness, actual pain, hunger, or fatigue. As a very young infant is immediately under the influence of nature, and as nature gives no sign without a cause, we are not to rest satisfied (supposing that even a mother could do so) until this cause is discovered. Hunger, we guess, is the first probable reason for distress. Natural food is then presented, but rejected. We then imagine the cry is of uneasiness, from a tightness in the dress, a pressure of some delicate part of the little delicate frame, or perhaps a pin piercing the tender flesh; perhaps cold is the reason of the infant's cries ; its extremities are chilled and comfortless; it is hurt, possibly, from being handled too roughly ; or it is wearied and pines for rest; or, lastly, it is suffering under one of the many complaints of infancy; for this a medical man must be consulted ; the other evils a mother may lessen, or do away entirely herself.

As the infant grows older, however, it mixes with men and women, the creatures of art; and from watching and imitating them, joined to the opportunities which a mother's negligence affords, it in some degree loses its subjection to nature. We may hear a child of six or eight months old cry very loudly, and yet sometimes presume he is urged by no real want. Every mother should make it her duty to attend herself to the cry of her child, that she herself may judge, or at least try to judge, of bis wants ; no nursery-maid would then dare to shake her head and hand at the infant, and in a passion call it " a little tiresome, cross thing,” the manner of doing which, more than the wordɛ, causing the child to cry ten times louder ; when, to stifle his voice, the imaginary want which he was pleased to have would be immediately gratified, much to his moral or physical injury.

Likings and dislikings, for instance, would be the same in all infants, if all were under the same particular regimen during the first year of infancy, and that all were accustomed, as were the Spartans, to see people eat and drink the same quality and quantity of food. As a proof of this, we know that the first natural food is the same every where, and that every babe is satisfied with it. But when nature is quitted for art, for nourishment made by human hands, what diversity, what mixture, what unnatural preparations ; and in what improper quantities are our children supplied ! Food, instead of being taken as a mere support to life, is made a principal business and source of delight ; and so great are our



from the pampering of appetite, that from childhood our bodies are often injured by the excess in those which were intended to preserve

them. 5. What is the reason, I wonder, that the child will not eat his food to-day ?” observes the mother to the maid. “ I fancy, ma'am, it is not sugared enough for the little gentleman," replies the latter.

« Not sugared enough ?” answers the mother, feeling something of a sense of impropriety,“ oh, it is very wrong to accustom the child to sweet things.”

“ La ! ma'am, a little sugar cannot hurt it, poor little dear; and, indeed, the child is so cunning, it won't touch a bit if it is not well sweetened,” replies the maid. The mother allows another spoonful of sugar in the food, and with pleasure watches the child as he eats voraciously. Would the mother feel so much pleasure if she were assured, that the cries of her 'son in the night were occasioned by sharp pains in his tender frame ? that these pains proceeded from over eating, or excess; that the excess was the consequence of food, which should have been simple and light, being made rich and tempting to the palate; and that the food thus prepared was owing to the negligence and cruel weakness of the child's mother? Yes, you, oh mother, who start up to your son's little bed; who take him in your arms, press him to your bosom, speak to him in the softest words, and change his position a thousand times in the tenderest manner; yes, it is yourself who were to blame, and look to your own work; one disorder may provoke another, and your child may be your victim, At any rate, if through topical remedies he may be

pretty well recovered by the following day, his food will be the same, and though fatal effects may not immediately follow, yet you will probably, in some not very distant period, see your son a notorious glutton and a selfish child.

Now if children's food were simply nourishing, without having any thing decidedly flattering to the taste, they would eat just enough of it to satisfy real wants, and no more. It is remarkable that the commonest food of nature is the most tasteless, and yet the most nourishing. Bread, milk, and potatoes, have each very little of what is called flavour, and water has next to none. And why should sugar be added to the finest wheaten biscuit or bread scalded by new boiling milk, which, if it be too rich for a child's stomach, may be reduced with clear water? And why is it necessary to give a child which can masticate its food a quantity of butter on its bread, much less sugar on the top of the butter ?* The truth is, that a false appetite is easily made and encouraged; and there is no person, not even an English gentleman of the present day, who professes to wait from his breakfast, at nine or ten o'clock, till

* I have heard several little children say, “I am very hungry." I have replied, “then take a piece of bread." “ No," they have answered, “ not dry bread; bread and butter.” Had these children been under my care, that I could have taken the liberty, for a liberty it certainly is to interfere in any family, however negligently ordered it may be, I should have said, “ My dear child, you cannot be very hungry if you refuse a nice piece of bread.” With one little girl, a relation, I did so; she walked away in good-humour, and in about an hour returned really hungry, saying, “ I will eat the bread now.”

« AnteriorContinuar »