Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

having wanted this taste here ; for the fact is, we are not now upon a question of science, or even of art, which the whole theory, practice, rule, and precept of education may be called, for this is a simple question of duty: whether a mother shall look on in apathy, or with actual encouragement, though under the pretence of amending, and allow her child to have all he screams for, and to do as whim and will incline him; or whether by so acting, a mother can be said to fulfil her trust as a parent, and have a right to expect blessings accordingly? One simple remark may do for a reply. That taste, genius, and science belong to sew ; but that duty, whether we have taste, or wit, or rank, or fortune, or scarcely any portion of one of these, duty must belong to all mankind, from the monarch to the squire, from the squire to the mendicant. It is of no avail to the eel, as the knife approaches him, to writhe, and twist, and turn, and endeavour to escape; his moment, poor reptile, is come, and he can neither quit the grasp of his destroyer nor ward off the blow. Neither avails it to the idle and slothful being to excuse, or extenuate, or colour over her faults and neglect. She has not done that which was given her to do, and while she seeks by a thousand evolutions and subterfuges to escape, conscience lays hold, and without listening to her intreaties, plunges her weapon into her heart, and leaves it to corrode her years of infirmity and decay.

Let then the most arduous, but most nécessary virtue of forbearance, be given in earliest infancy to our children. The great object of parental government is to teach the child how he must govern him

self. On the day that the chick leaves the shell, does the hen begin her instruction. Let a mother take the hint, and when her beloved infant's frame is expanded sufficiently to bear, let this infant be taught, with all the tenderness but firmness which belongs to a really good mother, to forbear.

We must begin, however, with the greatest caution and delicacy, and grow bolder as we advance. A very little child is such a delicate object, that we must handle him with gentleness, and where he requires amendment must attempt it with caution. Let us ourselves beware of offering any provocation or incentive to rebellion. That which we think right, must be at any risk enforced; but the laws of infancy are ve y few in number, and very simple ; and when we have chalked them out, let us be careful to add no more : above all, any more of caprice, fancy, or inconsiderateness.

It is a most difficult task to pretend to lay down directions when the infant is to be checked with safety. The sound of infant distress so acutely pierces a mother's ears, that if she suppose the

cry to be one of actual distress, she will forget books, and regulations, and theory, and, folding her child to her bosom, only consider how she may best soothe and pacify him. But surely the same mother will not always pursue this conduct? Ought she not sometimes to endeavour to search out, and distinguish the cry of suffering from the cry of opposition ? Those who are accustomed to infants can generally pronounce when they grow a little strong, and that they attentively observe, whether such infants be in pain or not; indeed the notes of pain after the first months,

are of a more plaintive character than those of fretfulness and rage. The infant does not always shed tears when it cries, it is often a mere noise, and its resource on all occasions to express bodily uneasiness and its wants; a dislike to particular treatment, or things which it has; and to shew a will and an incli. nation for treatment and things which it has not. Regular, tender, steady management from the birth, will do much towards confining an infant of four or five months under the light bounds of duty ; but Will must shew itself at some age, and we must likewise be prepared to call it to order. The best of children try to be rebels occasionally; the best of mothers can only endeavour to overcome evil in their children. Perfection is unattainable to mortality ; but he who keeps perfection most in view, is most likely to make the fairest copy.





At the age of six months, however, we can certainly, much better than before that period, distinguish the real from the artificial wants of an infant. At this

nounce none.

age it understands many words, though it can pro

Those who doubt the assertion may take a lively infant aside from its parents, and then say,

66 Where is mamma?" Let us look for your little sister;" or, “ Now we will find puss.” Does the child cast his eyes on the floor when he turns to seek his mother? or does he look in an horizontal direction from the arms of the person who holds him for the cat ? Just the contrary. The cat he knows to be an object which moves a very little distance from the level ground; he bends down his little body at once towards the floor, and, if he is a good-natured child, tries to be put down to seek the animal. In looking for his parent he keeps his head firmly fixed, and his eye rather upward; but his head is completely raised if he be seated near the ground, for he well knows that his mother, whose face he will seek to meet, is considerably higher up than any domestic brute in the house. 66 Shall we take a walk ?" addressed to this infant, will be understood and joyfully answered by smiles, motions of pleasure in the feet and hands, and looks towards the door. Indeed all short sentences expressive of the simple acts in which infancy may be engaged, are tolerably well understood at the age of six months; and if the child cannot apprehend the meaning of some, he never fails to study the countenance of the speaker to make out the tenour of the whole.

When, then, an infant can do thus much, are we to see violence and will gaining strength in him, and make no effort to subdue them? Because the child will cry, are we to let him have all be takes a fancy

to the moment he sees it? If he choose to strive to be put on the floor (which is very well to roll on occasionally), at the very moment his mother chooses to hold him in her arms, is he, after throwing himself back with a force which is almost sufficient to injure his frame for life, to be permitted to have his way? If he see the maid-servant with her bonnet and cloak for walking, and choose to want to go with her, are his screams and struggles to prevail ? If he is to be carried to bed, and he think proper not to lie, but kick and make a noise, is he to be taken up and dressed again, or to be carried to the drawing-room in his night-clothes? In any of these cases mark his smile of triumph, for Will is conqueror. If he take a dislike to cold water, or to ablution of any kind, are his shouts to bring him a tepid or warm bath, to the injury of his health? If he do not think

proper to go to this or that person, are we to submit to his whims? Above all, when, in a fit of perverseness, he is vexed and peevish, and lifts up his tiny hand to strike his mother or nurse, is she, while she calls out, “ oh fie!” nevertheless to laugh at him, as though he were doing something pleasing or clever, and permit it ?

" What matters a baby's blow?" may be asked by the ignorant. The blow is, perhaps, sufficiently heavy to kill a moth: it cannot injure a grown woman, unless directed to the eye. But what is the spirit in which that blow was given ? is it good or wicked ? Did not the child act to his worst? Did he not strike with all the strength, he had ? And if the power of infant Hercules had been his, would not his parent have suffered in proportion ? And yet how

« AnteriorContinuar »