THE CHILD AS AN IDEAL
WHILE the path of progress in the gaining of repose could not be traced thus far without reference to the freedom of a baby, a fuller consideration of what we may learn from this source must be of great use to us.
The peace and freshness of a little baby are truly beautiful, but are rarely appreciated. Few of us have peace enough in ourselves to respond to these charms. It is like playing the softest melody upon a harp to those whose ears have long been closed.
Let us halt, and watch, and listen, and see what we shall gain!
Throughout the muscular system of a normal, new-born baby it is impossible to find any waste of force. An apparent waste will, upon examination, prove itself otherwise. Its cry will at first seem to cause contractions of the face; but the absolute removal of all traces of contraction as the cry ceases, and a careful watching of the act itself, show it to be merely an exaggeration of muscular action, not a permanent contraction. Each muscle is balanced by an opposing one; in fact, the whole thing is only a very even stretching of the face, and, undoubtedly, has a purpose to accomplish.
Examine a baby’s bed, and see how distinctly it bears the impression of an absolute giving up of weight and power. They actually do that which we only theorize about, and from them we may learn it all, if we will.
A babe in its bath gives us another fine opportunity for learning to be simple and free. It yields to the soft pressure of the water with a repose which is deeply expressive of gratitude; while we, in our clumsy departures from Nature’s state, often resist with such intensity as not to know—in circumstances just as simply useful to us—that we have anything for which to be grateful.
In each new experience we find it the same, the healthy baby yields, lets himself go, with an case which must double his chances for comfort. Could we but learn to do so, our lives would lengthen, and our joys and usefulness strengthen in exact proportion.
All through the age of unconsciousness, this physical freedom is maintained even where the mental attitude is not free. Baby wrath is as free and economical of physical force as are the winsome moods, and this until the personality has developed to some extent,—that is, until the child reflects the contractions of those around him. It expends itself in well-balanced muscular exercise, one set of muscles resting fully in their moment of non-use, while another set takes up the battle. At times it will seem that all wage war together; if so, the rest is equal to the action.