This week’s excerpt from Formation of Character is from pages 137-139.
“Oh yes! you men make ludicrous blunders about children. But that’s no help. A young mother gets a tender human creature into her keeping, full of possibilities. Her first concern is, not only to keep it in health, but, so to speak, to fill it with reserves of health to last a lifetime. At once her perplexities begin… a mother I know wished her child to be clothed delicately, as befits a first-born. She sent to Ireland for a delicious baby trousseau of lace and cambric. You, gentlemen, don’t understand. Hardly had the dear little garments gone through their first wash, when somebody tells her that ‘oo’ a’ ‘oo’ [wool] is the only wear for babies and grown-ups. I doubt if to this day she knows why, but there was a soupçon of science in the suggestion, so the sweet cambrics were discarded and fine woollens took their place. By-and-by, when the child came to feed like other mortals, there was a hail of pseudo-science about her ears. ‘Grape-sugar,’ ‘farinaceous foods,’ ‘saliva,’ and what not; but this was less simple than the wool question. She could make nothing of it, so asked her doctor how to feed the child. Further complications arose: ‘the child sees everything;’ ‘the child knows everything’; ‘what you make him now he will be through life’; ‘the period of infancy is the most important in his life.’ My poor friend grew bewildered, with the result that, in her ignorant anxiety to do right, she is for ever changing the child’s diet, nurse, sleeping hours, airing hours, according to the last lights of the most scientific of her acquaintances; and it’s my belief the little one would be a deal better off brought up like its mother before it.”
“Then you would walk in the old paths?”
“Not a bit of it!…But my contention is, that you cannot bring up children on hearsay in these days; there is some principle involved in the most everyday matter, and we must go to school to learn the common laws of healthy living and well-being.”