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as soon as this is answered to herself, let her lock up the secret in her own bosom, and not talk but act; and act up boldly, vigorously, and without fear, to her principles and the dictates of her conscience.
BLAME NOT BEFORE THOU HAST EXAMINED THE TRUTH :
UNDERSTAND FIRST AND THEN REBUKE."
HAVING considered the exercise of judgment as necessary in a mother, to select such objects as her child, desiring, may possess; and that of discrimination requisite, also, in assisting her to choose the right moment for opposing when accident has thrown improper things in his way, I now proceed to the third qualification, so essential to a good mother, in the training of and regulating of her child's passions : and this is forbearance; or watchfulness over her own feelings and action, in order to meet the riot and excess which
grow from opposition to infant will. If in a judicial dispute, a combat, or in any emergency, one man gains an advantage over even a superior opponent through presence of mind, exertion of reason, and command of himself, how much more advantage shall a human creature in full maturity of sense and faculty have over a little helpless being who resists her will? When we survey a nursery-maid or dependant, let me even add, sometimes a mother, women in full growth, and with the natural strength of
twenty or thirty years; when we observe one of them stand over a little child, whose frame can scarcely support him during a walk of half a mile without fatigue, and whose tender limbs seem to bend under the effort of carrying a moderate sized volume across the room ; when we see such a person with crimson cheek, uplifted hand, wide enough in its capaciousness to cover the little being's whole head, her eyes glaring, and mouth full of invective and fury, and consider that all this tumult and violence are to quell the risings of irregular passions which opposition has produced in the little diminutive being before her; at such - a sight may not we be at a loss, whether to call it most injurious to the cause ; most unamiable and ungenerous ; or most indicative of the folly and weakness of those who pretend to, and sometimes do understand, but who so seldom practice what is good ?
But the mother opposes her child because he is in pursuit of some wrong object ? This surely ought not to excite rage and resentment in her ? To justify those passions whose lawfulness, however it be disputed in theory, is, in point of fact approved and acknowledged by the whole world, we must have goodness of motive, and justifiable cause for their appearance. In the examples of anger and indignation given in the last chapter which are tolerated by the world, and are styled virtuous, the epithet can only be bestowed on those regular passions, because the feelings which aroused them were of something of a corresponding nature. What cause or excuse has a mother or dependant to plead when she contends, not with virtuous indignation surely, but with rage
and fury against a child ? A fault, an error of childhood is a matter for sorrow and anxiety, rather than for resentment. Besides which, if a parent wish to check irregularities in her offspring, how can she hope to succeed by beginning to exhibit them in herself, with all the aggravated expression which excesses impress on larger features and persons ? The child, like a Liliputian, must look up to the exasperated countenance of the giantess over him, with horror, disgust, and fright; and this we certainly do sometimes observe. A child who has during several minutes resisted, will look upon the face of an angry grown person, and shuddering, will yield immediately, but with a feeling of disgust and horror, however, that no mother need covet. Whence then arises this contradiction? When there is not the least necessity for any thing like the hurry of passion on our parts, why do we suffer resentment to mingle with reproof, expostulation, and the correction of childhood ? The reason is, that we go (and none of us are exempt from this charge, but the most thoughtless and ignorant are the most culpable) we go to the charge of infancy and childhood, to the duty of observing, tutoring, training, with all our cares upon our minds; with all our hopes and fears working through our frames; and with all the impressions of past calamity, the delirium of present success agitating our bosoms, and clinging to our hearts: the wild chimeras of speculation, the sad registry of fact, shake our better resolves and master us by turns. We do not, none will endeavour to shake off the clouds of self-interest, which enclose each individual in his own separate
sphere, and which he makes so little effort to pierce with a ray of heavenly benevolence, that he may look out into the heart, and see how it may fare with a neighbour. We pounce upon a child as an eagle upon his prey; and whilst we chastise, hold him in as much controul; but we do not, like the royal bird, act with one single object. We hold our motives to be the good of the child, but at the same time are so influenced by circumstance, and precise periods, that we are irritated, pleased, angry, vexed, rejoiced at the state of our concerns, and are disposed accordingly to vent our feelings, and to be severe, lenient, inexorable or patient with the offender. On the receipt of a piece of good news, we are in a fit of complacency, and are ready to grant that which at another time could never be obtained ; to look over that which a quarter of an hour before would have excited in us the highest displeasure. Thus the little being is (if I may be allowed the similitude) a human barometer, which is acted upon by every change of atmospheric temper without being able in itself to offer any relief. Who can deny that this is sometimes the case ? who can affirm that he never heard of one child of his acquaintance saying, “ I may ask for such a thing, because my mother or my maid is in a good humour;" or, “I know I may have so and so of one, because she is pleased just now with something;" or, “ it is of no use to ask for this, because
maid is so cross ;" or, “ I will not touch that now, lest I should be punished, as my mother is angry with such a person.” Indeed, how can a girl or boy of eight or ten years of age have learned to
make these nice calculations, if they had never felt the consequence of the changes they notice? I know a gentleman's daughter, who at ten years had so accustomed herself to weigh the humours of those about her, that she never preferred any petition without a due preparatory examination. Now it is a deplorable thing to give into children's hands such a clue to our weakness, and when they find they can make us their tools, how contemptuous must be their opinion of us !
It is scarcely possible entirely to throw off our private feelings, as a mantle, at the feet of a child, when we see reason to expostulate and to oppose. But it should be our care to keep a strong watchful guard over them ; to hold them as much as we can aloof; to throw off joy, sorrow, anger, as we may have been previously affected by either ; and even must we put aside love towards the child's person or family : justice and mercy only are to stand by; justice to assist us in deciding, and mercy to attemper the correction to the age and tender frame of the little culprit. Calmness and patience we should possess, that we may endure the malevolent darings of obstinacy, spite, or rancour, as they may appear in him; and firmness, to persevere unshaken to the last when once the sentence is given. The child, beholding no starts of passionate excess; hearing no unequal and vain threatenings; and finding no delay in the execution of the sentence, whatever it be; as he perceives the countenance of his judge and his guide calm, grave, determined, inflexible, he will stop short, consider, undergo his penalty, reflect, reason, and finally submit. He will say of his own accord, he is