“Early Culture of Children,” by G.M.J. (from The Mothers’ Journal and Family Visitant, 1853; pp. 115-116
The truth of the old proverb “That first impressions are the most enduring,” has been too frequently proved to be disputed. “Train up a child in the way he should go,” is a law as imperative in the 19th century, as when first uttered by the lips of the wise man. Mothers are the natural executors of this law to their daughters. Nothing but the most unavoidable and pressing force of circumstances, should wrench this power from their hands. Who will guard with a mother’s jealous eye the health, habits, morals, and religion of this most delicate part of creation, which is emphatically bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh. How often I have been pained to see mothers place those delicate plants in the nursery with servants, whose tastes, feelings, morals, manners, and language are but a little removed from the lower animals of creation; there to receive impressions, and imbibe habits, which will grow with their growth, and strengthen with their strength, until like the branches of the giant oak, they shall expand and deepen into a shade that will forever conceal the parent stock. Then from this unnatural nursery, they are transferred into the boarding or public schools, or placed under the tuition of strangers, which although far superior to the nursery institution, is still wanting in the warm sympathy tender and delicate attention, patient and persevering effort, and the mild and forbearing spirit which are alone the natural product of a mother’s heart.
The food, clothing, exercise, and temperaments of children should be directed by none but a careful and judicious mother, as the health of our daughters is the foundation on which the complete structure of this fair edifice is reared. To indulge our children in highly seasoned meats, (which the Apostle hints are for man and not for children,) is prematurely taxing the stomach with an unnatural load, which will oppress and weaken; while a simple diet of vegetables and nicely made bread, seasoned with some light accompaniments, would strengthen and invigorate the system. There is still a greater
temptation to girls in fruit, cakes, rich paste, and the whole category of sweetmeats, which ingenious Frenchmen, and Yankee inventors manufacture from a paste of flour and grease, such as might be condemned in the manufacture of merchantable soap; filled with unwashed fruit, and daubed with sugars, painted in all colors from poison substances, in every conceivable device of animals, from the stately elephant, down to the creeping insect, and of the beautiful fruits and flowers, which tempt the eyes and feast the sense. Very many of our children are almost toothless, (or better be) than to be suffering from the pain of decaying teeth, and fetid breath, occasioned by an extravagant use of these delicious poisons, which have come to be the accustomed reward to every little favorite, for a kiss or a pleasant word. If the little one be dressed to walk, or ride, she is no sooner on her way than she is accosted by half a dozen friends perhaps, who are well freighted in pocket and satchel, not with the staff, but the destroyer of life. And then the drapery, the fingers, the face and the hat are alike adhesive to each other. And if the child have a delicate stomach, loss of appetite ensues, there is no relish for the regular meal.
Then there must be large purchases on holy days. The children must greet their stockings full of dogs, cats, birds, biddies, drops, sands, mints and juleps. There must now be a sufficient stock provided for the consumption of months until the next holy days, in addition to the daily donations of friends.
With these clogs upon the life-springs of our children, is it surprising that they are feeble, sickly, susceptible to bowel complaints, nervous temperament, nausea, headache, dyspepsia, fevers, rheumatisms and gout?
Shelburne Falls, Mass.