Truth usually lies somewhere between extremes. To keep a child, especially a boy, always in the nursery, or even in the parlor with his mother, is one extreme; and to let him go abroad continually, till his home and its smaller circle become insipid, is the other. A child properly trained will usually prefer home, and only desire to go abroad occasionally. He will rather need urging in the matter than require restraint.
But he must, at any rate, be taught to be sociable, not only for the salve of cheerfulness and the consequent health, but for the sake of his manners, his mind, and his morals.
If it is a matter of indifference, in the formation of human character, whether we mix in society or not, then, for anything I can see, an improvement might be proposed in the construction of the material universe. Instead of forming the planets so large—and this earth among the rest—each might have been divided into hundreds of millions; and every human being might have had a little planet, and an immortality, exclusively his own. Such an arrangement would certainly prevent a great many evils; and, among the rest, a great deal of quarrelling and bloodshed.
But divine wisdom is higher than human wisdom, and one world to hundreds of millions of human beings has been made, instead of giving to each individual of the universe a little world of his own, in which he might have reigned sole monarch, and only wept, with Alexander, because none of the other worlds were within his grasp. Where a family is already large, other society will be unnecessary for some time; but where it consists of a mother only, although her society is always to be considered of the first importance, I cannot but think she ought to take great pains to introduce her child occasionally to the company of other children.
That diffidence, which almost destroys the influence and the happiness of many individuals, is often cherished, if not created, by too much seclusion. Where there is a natural constitution which predisposes the child to timidity and diffidence, the danger is greatly increased; and parents should take unwearied pains to guard against it.
It is hardly necessary for me to say, that great care should also be used in selecting the companions of children. Their character will be greatly influenced for life by their earlier associates. Friendships between children are sometimes formed, while playing together, which are interrupted only by death. Those parents who are so fond of controlling the choice of their sons and daughters in regard to a companion for life, at a period when control is generally resisted, would do well to take a hint from what has here been suggested. There is no doubt but they might often—very often—give such a direction to the embryo affections of their infants and children, as would terminate only with their existence.