“Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.” (Proverbs 31:29)
Not every language has a word equivalent to the English word home, but instead use a word meaning about the same as house. How much more the thought of home brings to our minds than merely the thought of the house in which we live! The beloved ones living there and our associations with each other, our hopes and fears and joys and sorrows, all mingle together in one place of rest and sweet communion—home.
Home is a little community with authority, laws, and citizens each having a part to perform that life there may be perfect. The form of government in this community is very simple. Father and Mother begin a partnership in which each has responsibility and rights. There have to be laws to govern the conduct of this community as it grows in numbers and responsibility and authority to execute these laws. It is just as impossible for a home to be safe and happy without its members obeying the rules of right deportment as for a nation to be safe without laws and government.
To be able to fit into the home-life and to adjust ourselves to its requirements is one of the best traits of beautiful girlhood. This is not always accomplished without a struggle on the girl’s part; for when the years of fickle, changing youth are with a girl she finds that something in her nature rebels against the restraint of home. She finds that in many instances she would take a different course from what her parents are taking, that what seems most needful to them and upon which they insist seems needless and superficial to her, while other things which she thinks are very necessary they call foolish and silly. She wants to do many things of which they do not approve and will not permit, and require of her what is irksome and hard. She feels as if she were being pressed into a mold that does not fit, while her whole heart cries out for freedom to come and go and do as she pleases.
Some girls accept their own point of view as correct and contend and argue for their own way until all the beauty and peace of the home-life is destroyed. This is a grievous mistake, and one that can bring only sorrow and regret in its wake. Other girls despondently give up to their parents’ way and develop no mind or character of their own. This, too, is a mistake, which weakens the nature of any girl. But other girls submit to their parents because it is right that they should do so, yet holding, weighing, and considering their own opinions, really trying to learn what is best. A girl who will do this will soon develop judgment and discretion that her parents will be glad to honor. I have in mind now a sweet girl of eighteen who for two years and more has not only helped to earn the family living but has done practically all the buying and planning of the younger children’s clothes. Her mother is not afraid to trust the care of the children to her when they go out nor does she fear that her oldest daughter will misbehave when not in her presence. She does practically as she pleases because she has by thoughtful consideration developed judgment and wisdom sufficient to be given that liberty. How much of the happiness of this home rests at the door of this sweet girl we cannot say.
The younger daughter in the home has it in her power to make home a sweet, comfortable place to live, where laughter and sunshine will cheer the cloudiest day; or she may turn all its pleasures to bitterness and bring sorrow and heartache. If she can submit to her parents’ control, can be obedient, kind, and thoughtful, she is a constant comfort; but if she is always contending and arguing, speaking up in a saucy manner when she is crossed, or scolding and quarreling with the younger children, she makes home almost unbearable. If she has a separate set of manners for her own people from what she uses when with company, she is a constant disappointment. I never like the blank look that a mother’s face takes when someone commends the gentle kindness of a daughter of this type. She does not wish to lower her daughter in her friend’s estimation, nor can she heartily agree as to her daughter’s kindness.
A girl should have her full share of responsibility in the home. She should go about her work willingly, not as if it were an irksome duty which she was ill-disposed to perform. She should count herself one of the family, one of the children, having only equal rights and privileges with the rest.
A girl and her father should be good comrades. Too often this is not the case, but they live lives entirely apart from each other in interest and enjoyment. This is not always altogether the girl’s fault, but it is a condition she can remedy to a great extent by a little thoughtful kindness. Father very often has been too busy to keep acquainted with his growing daughters, and finds them rather out of his range. They seem as much strangers to him as are their young friends whom he meets in the home. He thinks they do not care to have him about, and takes himself off to his room or chair or on the porch and leaves them to themselves. One girl who found herself thus a stranger to her father formed the habit of going to meet him each evening she could get off. She was either at the corner, or, at least at the door when he came, and when she could she was at his office, so that they might have the whole way home together. It was only a little while until this homecoming was the happiest part of both their days, and many loving confidences were exchanged, which would never have been possible without her first step. Another family had the “father’s hour,” as they called it, the first hour after supper, and both he and the others planned their day to have this hour together. Fathers do like to be counted in. Any girl who will speak disrespectfully either to or of her father is lacking in one of the first principles of real womanhood. She should always remember that Father has the right to direct her life, to say what she shall and shall not do, to forbid her to go anywhere that is not proper. His word to her should be final. His approval to her should mean much.
The daughter and her mother come into closer relationship. They touch each other on many more points than do daughter and father. And if the daughter is safe from the temptations and allurements of sin about her she is a girl who makes her mother her chief confidante. To her goes every secret, every hope, and every fear. All the perplexities of her young life are threshed out by Mother’s side.
But Mother has so much of her daughter’s life to oversee that it becomes irksome to the girl. When the girl is small her mother is responsible for almost every act every hour of the day. She says how the child’s hair shall be combed, what dress she shall wear, where she shall go, and what she shall do. This oversight does not end all at once for the mother dare not let loose of the responsibility till the girl is able to take hold of it. And the changing over from complete supervision to self-direction is often a hard time for both mother and daughter, the early teens usually being the hardest struggle. Let us think of a long bridge reaching across the years, one end of it resting on those approaching years from ten to twelve and the other end resting in the early twenties. When a girl begins to travel this bridge her parents have her complete oversight and are wholly responsible for her, and by the time she reaches the other end their responsibility ends and she is on her own. Somewhere along that bridge the reins of her life slip out of her parents’ hands and into her own.
The young person begins to feel the urge to be independent, grown up, and “on his own,” and the parent tries to hold him back till he understands better. If parents always understood, they would give over responsibility just as fast as young folks could bear it, but unfortunately parents do not always understand. If boys and girls understood, they could be more patient, for grown-up years will come in time to all. But since it is hard for both the parents and the boys and girls to understand, there are a few years along in the teens when some very hard struggles occur between parents and children.
One of the sweetest places a young girl may have in any home is that of big sister. What a field of happiness and usefulness is open to the girl with little brothers and sisters! They are ready to look up to her as a guide and a pattern in everything. If she manages rightly, she can have unlimited influence with them.
Have you seen her, the ideal big sister? She is ever ready to kiss away the bumps and bruises of little heads and hearts, she knows just how to mend broken dolls and balls, she likes to pop corn and make candy for little people to eat, she knows such wonderful stories to tell or read, she will pick up and put out of sight those evidences of childish neglect that might bring little people into trouble, she understands and is a companion for everyone of them. Yes, many homes have just such older daughters as that.
The girl who is learning day by day to be a good daughter at home and a good sister to the young children, is also learning day by day how to make in time a good wife and a good mother. She is getting ready for the greatest work a woman can do. It was a woman who had given her life for a noble and far-reaching work, and who had never married, who when commended for the much that she had accomplished said, “I would give it all for a pair of baby hands.” There is no work so good for any woman as making a good, true home for somebody. Every truly beautiful character is at its best at home. Let us never neglect the home life.
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