Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/278

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OPPORTUNITY is too often regarded, by parents and educators, as the equivalent of training. Many confident assertions are made to the effect that enforced educative measures for the very young child make for harm, and that spontaneity can be depended on to direct and sustain impulse. This would be true, perhaps, if parental wisdom could be relied on to provide thoroughly wholesome environment, normal suggestion and stimulus to varied activities.

Unfortunately, children are compelled to adapt themselves to diversities in environment which, in comparison to that of most domestic animals, is profoundly to their disadvantage. Problems of child-growth should be considered in the light afforded by customs prevailing among breeders of valuable animals. Among animals the young one is welcomed and the mother devotes herself almost wholly to its best interests, at least during the critical period of lactation and dependence. Thus an invaluable start is secured in the right direction, both in nutrition and in habit formation. How deplorably different are the duties of maternity as viewed by the large majority of human mothers only those of us who have spent years in the dispensaries for sick children, or have had other direct experience of the poor, can fully appreciate. The laborer must have his family near him because his home must be near his work. Small consideration is given to the problems of infants and youngsters who follow in the wake of household necessities.

Among breeders of animals the young ones are of paramount importance. They constitute direct assets and the utmost effort is given to develop them into salable products. The human mother must primarily serve as cook and purveyor of creature comforts to the wage-earning father. The animal mother gives her undivided attention to her offspring till it is able to act alone in accordance with its relatively higher capacity for independent functionation. Hence it is obviously important that at the earliest possible stage of human existence the individual shall be supplied with not only the best opportunities available, but intelligent guidance in motor development, in order that it shall maintain its sovereignty over animals, or itself become an efficient animal.

Fortunately, many human mothers are supplied with reliable instincts and solicitudes. The exigencies of city life tend overwhelmingly to vitiate primitive impulses, to subordinate such desires and capacities as make for development of the home; to change the nest, or