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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Deepening and enlarging her sympathies

infantine gymnastics, there

is always one way in which fathers may indirectly, but very powerfully, influence their children, and that is through the mother. When her little children are around her, she needs above all earthly things the strength, support, society, and sympathy of her husband. It is wellnigh impossible to conceive the demand which a little child makes upon its mother's vitality. In Nature's plan, I believe, the supply is always equal to the demand. The new, fresh life gives back through a thousand channels all the life it draws. But if the mother is left alone, in such a solitude as is never found outside of marriage, but often and often within it; if she is left to seek in her baby her chief solace, unhappy is her fate. The little one exhausts her physical strength, and the inattentive and abstracted--alas! that one may not seldom say, the unkind and overbearing husband fails to supply her with moral strength, and her weary feet go on with ever-diminishing joy. All this is unnecessary. All this is contrary to the Divine economy. Every child ought to be a new spring of life, an El Dorado, fountain of immortal youth. Whether it shall be or not lies, if you look at it from one point, wholly with the husband, or if you look at it from another, wholly with the wife. On the one hand, each is all-powerful. On the other, each is powerless. But the husband has always the advantage of strength, out-door activities, and continual commerce with the world, and consequent variety. The wife, surrounded
by her children, is in danger of giving herself up to them entirely. She will incessantly dispense her life without being careful to furnish herself for such demands by opening her soul to new accessions. Here is where her husband should stand by her continually to encourage and stimulate. If she is not strong enough to go out into the world, let him bring the world home to her. He should by all means see to it that her heart and soul do not contract. Every child, every added experience, should have the effect of expanding her horizon, deepening and enlarging her sympathies, and enabling her to gather the whole earth into her motherly love. Her little world ought to be a type of the great world. The wisdom which she gathers in the one, she ought to turn to the good of the other,--a good that will surely come back again in other shapes to her family world. So, every family should be both a missionary centre and the medium through which, in never-ending flow, all good and gracious influences shall pour. Every family should rise and fall with the pulse of humanity, and not be a mere knob of organic matter, without dependencies or connections. But the father should see to this. He should gently lure the mother out of her nursery into such broad fresh air as she needs for healthy growth. What that shall be is a question of character and culture. A lyceum lecture, a sewing-society, an evening party, a concert, a county fair, may be elevation, amusement, improvement to her. Or he may do her most good by helping her to be interested in reading, either in the current or in classic literature. Or, best of all, he may charm her with his own companionship, beguile her with pleasant drives, or walks and talks, keeping her heart open on the husband side, and so continually alive, while maintaining also the oneness which marriage in theory creates. It is this respect in which husbands are perhaps most generally deficient. They do not talk with their wives. If a neighbor is married, they tell of it. If a battle is fought, or a village burnt down, they communicate the fact; but for any interchange of thought or sentiment or emotion, for any conversation that is invigorating, inspiring, that causes a thrill or leaves a glow, how often does such a thing occur between husband and wife? What intellectual meeting is there,--what shock of electricities? When a definite domestic question is to be decided, the wife's judgment may be sought, and that is better than a solitary stumbling on, regardless of her views or feelings; but this sort of bread-and-butter discussion of ways and means is not the gentle, animated play of conversation, not that pleasant sparkle which enlivens the hours, that trustful confidence which lightens the heart, that wielding of weapons which strengthens the arm, that sweet, instinctive half unveiling which increases respect and deepens love and fills the heart with inexpressible tenderness. Yet there is nobody in the world with whom it is so important for a man to be intimately acquainted as his own wife, while such intimate acquaintance is the exception rather than the rule. Ever one sees them going on each in his own path, each with his own inner world of opinions and hopes and memories, one in name, miserably two in all else.

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