IT MAKES me happy to know that my family think of our house as a place to live in, not just to sleep in. It was not always so. I made a god of my home before the family came. I made a fuss if there was anything out of place, and was forever scrubbing and polishing. I even got into that detestable habit of picking up things from the carpet.
Then came the children. They cured me! Bathing and feeding and looking after babies does not give a mother much time for fussing around furniture and ornaments. Before the children came I was treating my home like an idol – as if it belonged to me alone.
I realize now that it belongs to all of us – to my husband and my children as well as to me – and they all have the right to do as they please in their own home.
The people in my home matter more than the things and that, I think, is my secret of having a happy family life. And remember that no matter how gratifying a mother finds her role of motherhood, it is better for her children when she is not totally wrapped up in their welfare – forever fussing them, as if they were incapable of living without her. That attitude makes husband and children hate the home, which should be a place where they are free to do as they please, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.
Throughout my life I have watched the reaction of children to environment, and I am convinced it can mould character and decide personality. In fact, I think environment is of more importance in character-building than heredity – though the scientists may dispute this.
A child will copy its parents – their way of speaking, their way of living and their way of looking at life and its problems. In time, the child will add the sum total of environment and teaching to its self-acquired individual knowledge.
Parents should try to teach children to be independent in thought and action; teach them that their parents’ way is only one way of looking at things and that every man and woman is entitled to his or Her own opinion. After all, parents are only necessary until the child is ready to face the world.
No matter how a parent brings up a youngster, the day will come when he will realize his right to his own opinion. It depends then on the way he was brought up whether he will feel kindly towards his parents or resent severe, narrow-minded upbringing.
Parents not only have the duty of teaching the child to be an individual, but also the duty of teaching him to fend for himself once he reaches manhood.
My three children have been taught to be self-dependent. Thus I know they would be able to look after themselves should anything happen to my husband or me.
It is not fair to rob a youngster of his independence and keep him chained to his father’s or mother’s way of thinking. Such selfishness breeds an inferiority complex that will prevent a child from making his own way in the world.
Tomorrow’s thinkers must be people who have been brought up to think and act for themselves. Such people come from all walks of life.
A child should be taught how wonderful it is to be born – to be a human being with the right to think and act independently. There is no other person like him in the world, and God gave him a brain different from the brain of anyone else, if he will only use it and make the most of it.
I find that children are most impressed when I explain this to them. They feel important – and why shouldn’t they? It is a great thing to know one has a brain like no other in the world. But it is up to parents to see that this importance is not aggressive or impertinent – that is where home environment comes in.
Truly it is a wonderful thing to be a parent and have the privilege of guiding and aiding a child to equip itself to go into the world.
Many parents ask me: ‘Don’t children owe anything to their parents? ‘My answer is always the same: ‘Children owe nothing to their parents, nothing at all, except respect, and parents have to work hard to earn that.’
I have worked very hard to earn my children’s respect – I hope I shall always keep it. I plan things with them and tell them why I do this and that. Youngsters often puzzle why grown-ups do things in a way that they themselves would never do them. Therefore it helps a lot when mothers explain how and why.
You will never lose the confidence of your child if in return you give it your confidence. Forget the parent angle and look on the members of the family as partners in a business – the business of making a success of ‘home sweet home.’
The feeling that he or she is really treasured by a grown-up is something no child ever forgets.
I remember once breaking a vase when carrying a heavy coat upstairs for my mother. I was eight at the time. Halfway up I tripped over the coat and went rolling down the stairs.
Crash! The vase which occupied pride of place at the foot of the stairs was in a thousand pieces. Mother was with me in a flash. ‘are you hurt, darling? ‘She cuddled me in her arms – no talk of the vase. I knew she loved that vase and I shall never forget the thrill I got to think that she loved me still more
That is the angle I am trying to adopt in bringing up my family – to show them that they come first, before all material possessions.
A room of his own! That is every boy’s dream. Try to make it come true, even if you have to halve a room by a curtain or by the arrangement of the large furniture down the centre of the room. All that matters is that his ‘den ‘is his very own.
The first requirement in a boy’s room is sturdy furniture. The second is that the furniture should be serviceable. Have self-coloured walls; good lighting is essential. Have the shade on a reading lamp made from an old map.
A boy needs a writing desk, a wastepaper basket, a few hooks in the ceiling from which to suspend aeroplanes, and so forth. He needs, also, many shelves, a treasure chest, and a tool cupboard.
Two single bed tops could be fixed on a strong wooden frame to make two bunks, as in a ship – the window camouflaged as a port- no hole; a ship’s wheel fixed to one wall and a ship’s lamp hung from the ceiling.
Think of the pride that would swell in a small boy’s heart if his parents did this for him one Christmas.
A girl’s room should be dainty – frilly covers on the bed and the chest of drawers; a frilly seat at the dressing table. I know this may suggest a lot of work to the mother, but I found that my girls kept their own room tidy when it w1/2as pretty and really theirs, and I was saved work in the end.
Have plenty of mirrors and flowers about the room, and lots of dolls. I arrange the dolls to welcome the girls home from school each evening. Have lots of shelves and remember a rocking chair in the girl’s room. I know no better place for it than where a little girl can rock herself and her dolly to sleep.
A girl needs a workbox – having a workbox in my girls’ room made them begin to take an interest in mending and knitting.
The rails in their wardrobe and a few pegs on the wall are all fixed at shoulder height, so they don’t have the excuse, ‘I can’t reach, Mummy,’ when I ask why they haven’t hung up their outdoor clothes.
My two girls have a bed each and a table-lamp at their bedsides. Each has one side of the room for her own and I have a dividing curtain down the centre. The girls’ names are on their beds. Each has her own wardrobe, dressing table, shelves and chair, and they are as pleased as can be about their own ‘rooms.’
When the children are on holiday from school I turn over the dining-room to them as a play-room. In this way I can keep the rest of the house clean, and they don’t have to put up with my complaining.
It cuts both ways, I think; I am as much a nuisance to the children running about among their toys as diey are to mc, so it’s best that we have a plan.