Were the constitutions of your children pretty much the same? we demanded of this lady.
“No; one of my boys was extremely feeble, from his very birth.”
Did you treat him precisely as you did the others?
“Yes, as far as regarded principles; that is, I permitted him to bear as much of cold, heat or wet as his constitution would endure without pain or injury. The degrees, however, were very different from those his brothers bore, had they been determined by the measurement of the thermometer, but precisely the same in effect, as far as could be ascertained by consequences. Thus, if he were exposed to the same temperature as his brothers, he experienced no more inconvenience from it, when it was very low, than they, because he had additional covering to protect him.”
Duty of mothers in this matter. Children prefer the society of parents. Importance of other society. Necessity of society illustrated. Early diffidence. Selecting companions for children. Moral effects of society on the young. Parents should play with their children.
Every mother is unquestionably as much bound to have an eye to the society of her child, as to his food, drink or clothing. And if the quality, amount and general character of the latter are important, those of the former are by no means less so.
It is indeed true that many a child has been happy, in a degree, in the society of its mother alone, where the father was seldom seen, and the brothers and sisters never. And it is equally true; that a few children have so far preferred the society of their parents alone, as to become disinclined to other society. But cases of this kind are only as exceptions to the general rule; and are probably monstrous formations of character. I cannot believe that any child, rightly educated, would prefer the society of none but its parents, or even its parents and brothers and sisters.
A French author has written a considerable volume on the importance of what he calls gaiety, but which he should prefer to call cheerfulness. Among the rest, he maintains that it is indispensable to the best health. But if so—and I do not doubt it—then it ought to be encouraged in children, and the earlier the better. Now there is no way to encourage cheerfulness in the young so effectually as by indulging them with considerable society.
That the thing may be carried to excess, I have no doubt. I have seen mothers who permitted their children to play with their mates till they became excited, and were thus led to continue their sports, not only farther than cheerfulness and health demanded, but until they were excessively fatigued, and almost made sick. And I believe that the excitement of numbers, in infant and other schools, may be so great as to be injurious, rather than salutary. Still I think these are rare cases.