The Easy-Going Mother: 1892

 

 

1914 Doucet robe mother with child and puppet

The Easy-Going Mother.

Is the easy-going the ideal mother? After a prolonged study of those who err in other ways, and unconsciously, often with the purest motives, work great harm in the baby lives entrusted to their care, one is almost ready to believe that the ability to “let alone” is the most valuable trait in a mother. Yet on looking closely into her ways, and noting the results of her course, that belief is sadly shaken. Let us observe her a little.

The home of the easy-going is overrun by babies, that being the easiest way to get along. Now nothing is sweeter than a wholesome baby, but who—beside its mother —wants it always in the foreground, its dressing the most important event of the family life, the details of its breakfast occupying the whole household, and its nap throwing a spell of enforced silence on every one within the walls?

Out of the cradle the children become even more pervasive; nothing is forbidden them, and no care is taken to teach them the difference between use and abuse. In consequence, there is not a clean or whole book on the premises, not a chair that is firm, not a table unmutilated. Boys ride the spring furniture and harness the chairs, if they do not hack and destroy to the top of their bent. Girls bang the piano, “take tea” in the parlor, scatter cake and doll rags at will.

They think they have a good time; so does their mother, who consoles herself for present discomfort and the alienation of her friends by the belief that they will outgrow all this lawlessness. “Boys will be boys,” is one of the first articles in her creed. It is as if a gardener should let the weeds grow up among the flowers, in the belief that they can be more easily disposed of when of full size and well rooted, forgetting that the strong growing weeds will, long before that time, have crushed the life out of the flowers, and that even—by great labor—they are pulled up and eradicated then, they will leave a scarred and seamed surface.

Think of the martyrdom of a guest in the home of the easy-going! Not only are the children always under foot, all the chairs sticky, and bread and butter on the sofa, but the small tyrants themselves, with their noise and unrestrained wildness, insist on seeing her, probably soil her gown with greasy fingers, handle her parasol and fan, run off with her umbrella, and often go so far as to demand any little thing in her possession that pleases their fancy.

And how is the untrained child in other people’s houses? Is he not the terror of the hostess, who dreads his encroachments, his violence among the pretty things which her own children have been taught to respect! Is not such a child the true “enfant terrible” for which America is famous?

The effect upon the children themselves is greatest. Left to their own devices, with their wills untrained, the seeds of carelessness and selfishness rapidly grow into weeds which may take a lifetime to root out. A sad wrong is done to children who are defrauded of the necessary discipline, who are not taught to respect the rights of others, and to restrain their own lawlessness. Because of this neglect they are dreaded and feared by everyone who knows them, when with a little control they might have been a credit to parents, a joy to friends, and a welcome guest everywhere.

The daughters of such a household come to womanhood with no habits of neatness or order, and no thoughtful care for others. The case of a son is even worse. A boy with that masterful and all-grasping nature, which, duly controlled is an element of success in his future conflict with the world, needs always careful drilling in respect for the rights of others, including animals. He needs training in personal daintiness, in civility, in gentleness of manner. He is born a little savage with great possibilities; he must be led into the path of a noble manhood: Led, not driven, nor “nagged,” still less allowed to reach maturity with all his barbarisms upon him.

Self-training is a thing rarely attempted by a grown man, accustomed to indulge rather than to fight his inclinations. The world will rudely teach him external decency, a show of regard for the claims of others, and certain appearances indispensable to the respect of his neighbors, but in his own home, in the bosom of his family, he will to the day of his death display the selfishness, the carelessness of the feelings or the wishes of others, the habits of disorder so firmly built into his character in his unfortunate boyhood.

The easy-going mother is frequently the product of a too severe training, in which petty tyranny of some sort destroyed any pleasure in life. “If I ever have a home,” the daughter of such a household is apt to think, when smarting under some of its harsh rules and restrictions, “if I ever have a home, there shall be peace and comfort in it.” And so feeling she naturally falls into the opposite error. In trying honestly and sincerely to do her duty, to secure her household liberty, which is the breath of life, she failed to draw the line at license, and license is as bad in its tendencies as the evil she wished to avoid.

Olive Thorne Miller.

Boston [MA] Herald 31 July 1892: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, of course, Mothering Sunday–an excellent day on which to publicly praise good Mamas and privately blame the bad. Even in 1892 there was debate about the ideal “good mother.”

To-day’s mothers seem torn between the “helicopter” and the “free-range”  models of raising children. Mrs Daffodil can see advantages to both: Learning to pilot a helicopter is excellent for eye-hand co-ordination and free-range is useful for the eggs. It is not necessarily an “either-or” situation.

Mrs Daffodil has always been punctilious about not taking positions in households where there is an “easy-going” mother. Such persons always think that their children are “expressive,” or “high-spirited,” when they are merely destructive. Mrs Daffodil is accustomed to being obeyed and when she has very occasionally had to correct visiting children by gently asking them to, say, refrain from setting Basil, the scullery cat on fire with their firecrackers, she has always been appalled at the insolence with which she is met. Fortunately she had time before their next visit to train Basil to “fetch” burning squibs and return them to their owner. Judging by the calls to the kitchen for aloe, he performed splendidly.

Mrs Daffodil wishes all fond Mamas the very happiest of days! But she will not allow their children to torment Basil or jump on the furniture at the Hall.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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2 thoughts on “The Easy-Going Mother: 1892

  1. Ruth Beaty

    And then there is the infamous Dr. Spock (not the one with pointy ears) who ruined and entire generation and later had to recant his entire views. My mother used to go by his book. Fortunately my grandparents had a little more stern view of things and we weren’t allowed to practice such nonsense. Mother did get over it quickly after there were several more of us, lol! We were always loved, but were expected to mind our manners and behave properly in company. It’s nice to see the same in my grandchildren too.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      He has much to answer for…. But applause for children who were both loved and disciplined (two sides of the same coin) and who are a credit to their families and society!
      Best wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

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