“Love is of God.” (I John 4:7)
Every real woman loves. Her first love is that of the little child for its mother. Once, to lie in her mother’s arms and to look up into that dear face filled all her little heart. After a while she was conscious of her father and her brothers and sisters, and gradually they began to fill a large place in her affections. By and by her widening circle of love took in her little friends, and older people who were kind to her, until at last the schoolgirl of ten or twelve, if her childhood had been what it should be, stood at the door of beautiful girlhood with a wealth of love in her own heart, and with just as bountiful a measure of love bestowed upon her by others.
It is at this time that another love nature begins to waken, something the little girl has heard about, but never has felt before. The cause of this awakening lies in the changes that are taking place in her body. Organs that have been asleep all these years begin now to rouse from their stupor and to stir into growth and action, her whole body grows very rapidly and takes on a new form, and new feelings and emotions are awakened and thrill her very soul.
This change in the body is so rapid, and it affects the disposition so greatly, that the girl gets all out of harmony with herself. It is as if she should come home some evening, to the very house where she had been living all the time, and, going in, should find the rugs and curtains a1l changed and considerable new furniture about, but nobody present to tell her what it all meant.
How bewildered she would feel as she stood for a while trying to understand, and how awkward and confused she would feel! At such a time she would very likely call out for her mother, that she might understand the changes that had taken place in the home.
Just so it is with the girl of twelve or thirteen. It is her same body, she is herself, but for reasons that she cannot fathom everything seems different. New feelings and emotions have come into her heart like new furniture, while her love for her dolls and many childish games seems to have been set back out of the way. If the girl at this time will call out to her mother for explanation and guidance, she will get along all right; but some girls turn resolutely from their mother just now when they need her most, and get themselves into tangles that almost spoil their young lives.
One of the strongest new emotions that come to furnish this house the girl is to live in is her new love nature. By this nature I mean that affection which comes between boys and girls, and which is meant in time to prepare them properly to choose a companion for life. The effects of this awakening are peculiar. The boy becomes bashful and painfully self-conscious. He feels awkward and ill at ease and has a great dread of strangers, especially if they are women or girls, keeping himself out of sight at such times as much as possible. The girl, on the other hand, is liable to be more bold, and you will see her, if she is not properly guided by a wise mother, doing many things that are bold and daring. She dresses her hair in new and extravagant ways, is very particular about her dress, and studies her face to make it as beautiful as possible, all that she may be attractive and pleasing. Often she is unconscious that her attitude toward the boys has anything to do with her extreme care as to appearance; but it has a great deal to do with it. Her new nature is waking.
This new love nature wants someone to love, and is soon reaching out to find that one; but it is not wise to allow it to have its own way, or the purpose of God will be frustrated. This nature is intended to assist in the choice of a lifemate when the girl has grown older. Now it should be guarded carefully and allowed to grow and develop until the girl is capable of loving in a true, womanly manner. It is impossible to choose understandingly for life while yet in extreme youth, and those who are wise wait till they are older.
If girls allow themselves to fancy they are in love when they are yet very young, they will form extreme attachments, imagining they are desperately in love, only to have this passion pass away to give place to a new fancy. Thus in a few years the store of love that should have been saved till the good time when they should have a husband and home, is frittered away on this one and that, and they are left almost without ability to love.
This new nature that is waking should be thought of as a beautiful plant given of God to be protected and cherished till it has become large and strong. If you had a delicate house plant that was meant to be handled carefully and kept from the wind and heat, would you not be foolish to carry it out with you exhibiting it to everyone you met, letting it feel the hot sun, the sharp wind, and even the bitter cold? Your plant would either soon die entirely, or be stunted and never become perfect in beauty. So it is with this new nature within you. If it is kept carefully as a sacred trust, it will grow into strong, warm affection that will be a rich store of joy and happiness for you by and by; but if brought out now and allowed to go to this one and that one it will wear itself away and lose its warmth and ardor.
Mary Wells often felt that her life was made hard because she was not allowed to go into young company as Bessie Wilson did. They were about the same age, neither of the girls being yet sixteen. Mary was treated as a little girl in that she seldom was allowed out at night, never “went with the boys,” was kept regularly in school, and was referred to as Mr. Wells’ little daughter. Bessie, on the other hand, dressed like a young woman, was often out to parties and theaters, had a sweetheart, and passed among the older girls as one of them. In school Mary was ahead of Bessie, who was just ready to quit because she was “tired of school” and had so little time for it.
“Papa,” said Mary one day, “I am as old as Bessie Wilson, I am in a higher class in school, and I am as tall as she is, yet I may never do the things she does, but have to look and act like a child. When are you going to let me grow up?”
“Mary, do you remember that lily that blossomed here in the window so early this spring?”
“Yes, but it is dead now. It seemed to give its whole strength to make that one blossom. It looked pretty then, but really those which blossomed at the right time were prettier,” said Mary.
“That is just what I wanted you to remember. That lily was pretty, but it was forced along too fast, blossomed before its time, and died. That is the way with many girls. They blossom before their time. I want my daughter to come to her full, mature beauty.”
“Do you mean that Bessie is blossoming too young?” asked Mary.
“When you come to the fullness of your youth, when you are like a rose in full bloom, poor Bessie will already be fading.”
Mary said no more, but she watched, and her father’s prophecy was true. When Mary came to the full beauty of her young womanhood, Bessie was already a disappointed young wife, with her health gone.
Girls who are guided properly through the age of first love are reserved and careful. It is not always easy for a girl to submit to the advice of Mother and Father, to keep out of the social whirl, to remain a little girl, to dress modestly and act as quietly as she should; but every girl who will bring herself into obedience now will have much to be thankful for in coming years. At no time in a girl’s life does she need her mother’s oversight as in those years when the love nature is waking, and new experiences are crowding in upon her.
A girl should not go out alone with boy company, nor should she be one of a crowd of boys and girls out at night or off on a long hike or ride unless they are properly chaperoned. All these safeguards about a girl are like a wall of protection to her.
“You act as though you cannot trust me,” said one girl because her mother insisted that during these years she should be carefully guarded.
“I do trust you, Daughter; but I would not have you placed in a position in which I could not personally vouch for your conduct if any question should come up. You are not yet old enough to be safe in relying wholly on your own judgment.”
Generally when a girl has passed her sixteenth birthday she begins to see things more clearly, is not so broken up in her nature, and possibly begins to understand what a blessing her mother’s care has been to her. If she is a girl of ordinarily good judgment, she will in another year or two begin to look at things from the standpoint of a young woman, not with the excited eyes of a child.
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