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gard to those who have to deal with children is as extraordinary as it is absurd.*
Were a mother a great deal in the nursery, she would be able to counteract the effects of prejudice in a thousand ways, and would be of infinite service to a tractably disposed person; but, to speak truly, tractable dispositions of twenty, thirty, or forty years standing, are very rare. Our habits, good or bad, grow with us, and strengthen as we advance into life: and the older we are, the more difficult do we find it to alter them. Notwithstanding all this, however, a mother may try to find out a servant who will obey her particular orders. But she must lay down her rules, not as being of benefit to the child, for an ignorant maid will never perceive any, but as being her pleasure and desire. Yet let her always recollect that to promise is easy, to perform so
* The prejudices and fanciful experiments of the lower orders who settle and have families, are beyond all conception ridiculous. Amongst this class, prejudice is as strong in London as in the most distant counties. The doting mother of a poor infant in London, to my own knowledge, lately lost her child from her own absurdities. First, she fed the poor infant with bacon when it cried; next, she spent her all upon raspberry jam, of which she believed it wanted a meal. And, lastly, from some ill-fated ex pectation, she fancied its health was to be completely restored by soot and water. The child died, and the mother was heartbroken for her loss. Who has not heard of charmed necklaces (for which there is a regular house and trade in London), to assist the child's teeth in their progress through the gums? Of the wonderful effects of sugar and butter? Of the danger of cutting infants' nails the first year lest they prove thieves ? With a thousand other absurdities much less innocent than these, both with respect to the health and the character of children of the lowest classes.
difficult, that the promise is often at first neglected, and next forgotten.
There is a notion prevalent among the lower classes, that cold and much water is improper for infant ablution. There is scarcely a servant who would take more than half a pint of water, and that quantity warm, to wash a child. Now if the mother command with firmness that a large vessel should be filled with cold water, and that a sponge should shower it over the child every morning, a promise will be given to that effect ; but the act will not be performed, unless she herself stand by, and see that her commands are really obeyed. If she do not choose that the food should be cloyed with sugar, she must herself stand by when the food is prepared. Untaught minds, which only regard the present, argue thus : « Why should we be so particular? Why so careful to do this, and abstain from that ? Why should a child be made to scream (which he may
do at first) under a sluicing of cold water, when a small quantity of warm would do as well? And what harm cán there be in a little sugar ?" If the mother, after throwing over her child's limbs a stream of clear water, and then dressing him quickly, were to point to him, as he is closing his eyes for sleep with all the sweet calm of a cherub, his frame braced and vigorous, his little hands spread open in health, and his countenance blooming, placid, and lovely; if the mother were to say,
“ look at the infant, and see if bis whole body be not strengthened, and refreshed, and improved by this my plan ?" the lip would ac
quiesce, but the mind of ignorance and prejudice would remain unconvinced.
Thus, with such, argument is vain upon the matter. We must take it for granted that all servants, however gentle may be their natures, however active their services, and however fair their promises, do certainly possess, in common with the class to which they belong, more or less of prejudice and ignorance ; and against the effects of these it is the duty of all concerned with children, to guard.
But would not the safer way be, to allow children very little communication with servants? Yes; and this is practicable, provided mothers will agree to give up some of their quiet, some of their pleasures, and much of their time.
I recollect being one day seated at table by a fine little girl whilst she was at dinner. I was invited by my friend, who helped her, to taste the fritters from which she was making her repast. A piece of one was cut off and given to me. I ate it, whilst the child who sat by, made haste to finish her’s, eyeing me all the time. At length she said, “ You greedy slut !" I immediately stopped, and looked at her very earnestly. She seemed very little disconcerted, and went on with her dinner.
I then turned to iny friend and said, “ Where could she have learned such an expression ? Assuredly from some servant ; and the feeling, too, which dictated it is a selfish one, she fears there will not be enough left for herself." The lady then reasoned with the little girl, and said what she considered as proper, and I felt an ad
ditional proof of the influence of example over tender minds. Inaccuracies of language, and improper expressions, which they adopt from their attendants, children lose as they receive the polish of study; but the sentiments and first impressions are always preserved, though the persons from whom they were received may be long since forgotten.
As the consideration of language has just now been hinted at, it may be as well to make an observation here, before we proceed further.
When a child begins to speak, and to put his words in the form of sentences, if the person who always assists him is herself correct, the child's language will be ever the same. A child can only imitate sound by sound ; and can only gain ledge from what he sees and hears. If improper words, or low language are not uttered before him, he will not make use of either. Long words or difficult sentences he will not often recollect, because he at first has no idea of their meaning; but whenever he has an idea, he will suit language to it, which shall neither be revolting to a delicate ear, nor inappropriate to the subject.*
* A few months ago, I was playing with the only son of Admiral G., a very intelligent inquiring child of four years old. I turned over, for his amusement, a number of plates descriptive of many towns and scenes in Palestine, when upon coming to Bethlehem, he obliged me to stop, and asked me so many questions that I was fearful of confusing his tender mind by the number of replies. I told him at last that Jesus Christ was born there. He looked very thoughtful, and I was going to venture a little further in my explanation, and to say a word concerning the Redeemer, when he suddenly turned and said, “Was
As much as 'we may, without allowing a child to presume, we should attend to him whenever he addresses himself to us, or to others, if we be present. Indeed the great object of a mother should be, to make the improvement of her child's mind and heart her chief care, at the same time, however, that she conceals this grand principle upon which she acts; or, to speak as the sacred historian of Mary does, she should lay up these things in her heart. Our best actions produce disgust and weariness when related by ourselves ; the mention of, or allusion to them, creates a doubt of our motives.; as it certainly does of our modesty. Acquaintances could not but inwardly respect a mother who knew, not from herself, but might only guess that her refusal to some parties of pleasure was given from a wish to be near her children ; and can such people help admiring the mother who leaves them in her drawing-room, with an excuse for a few minutes, whilst she flees to her nursery, and there, holding her little children's hands between her own as they
Jesus Christ borned ? I thought he borned every body else, but didn't born himself?” What a noble idea had tbis in fapt of the power of the Saviour ! bis language was infantine, but not vulgar, and for his thought, how was it to be answered ? How was it to be explained that the Redeemer was son of man and son of God, without lowering the idea wbich a child of four years had formed of the divine nature ? Indeed wbo was to bope to be comprehended by him ? I could not, and I dropped the subject in admiration of my little friend, and in despair of my own ability to give him an answer which should enlighten and satisfy bis mind, and, at the same time, not weaken bis high-respect for the Messiah as God.