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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Girls from Twelve from Sixteen.

by Mrs. Fred Reynolds.
Volume 13, no.2, February 1902, pgs. 182


II. The Parting With the Child.

The child was entering her teens, and that she was changing was plain to the loving eyes that watched without seeming so to do. Half-unconsciously, doubtless, she was feeling the stirring of the wider life of womanhood within her heart; but she loved the child that was herself, and half-sad, half-afraid, dreaded the final parting with the merry-eyed, light-footed creature who had so far borne her company on life's journey. She gambolled still at times like a young puppy at play, but at others her romps were more restrained, and regulated to a certain extent by self-consciousness. She, too, who but a few months before had asked in all seriousness for "a sack with holes for arms and neck" for garden wear, now found fault with frocks which her rapid growth had rendered somewhat short, and objected to wearing anything soiled or lacking freshness, and this though the child in her still rent and stained her raiment. She was fortunate in that she was a true child of Nature, and had been to no "schools of man's providing", but long hours had been passed in studying the lore written in stone and stream and springing seedling. Her young limbs had grown straight and strong amongst the rocks of her native moors, rather than in any organized gymnasium; with her brothers she climbed trees, rode, swam, cycled, skated, or, with her loose frock tucked into her strong, warm knickers, paddled with them in the moorland streams, finding treasures of weed and insect life; she, like them, rode their rough mountain pony, cross-saddle or bare-back: was, in fact, a boy with them. But now, though the companionship was the same, the relationship was changing. She began to demand help from them, she expected by subtle degrees more consideration at their hands: she imperiously asked and obtained caresses: the woman was growing in her.

Little by little her dolls were losing their interest. Once passionately adored and sharing in varied stages of decay and even of undress all her pursuits and pleasures, they now for long weeks at a time reposed in safe but dreary oblivion. Those who loved her never questioned her on the matter, but took all for granted. They would not speak of the subtle change that was dawning, they dare not roughly lift the veil to pry upon Dame Nature at her eternal work. Others, to whom children were but "an awful joke," or "an idle pastime," made remarks that the dolls were seldom now in evidence, or openly said, "I suppose you are too old now for dolls." This the child would hotly deny, and still half fearful of the truth would bring out some of her slumbering children, dress them with dainty fingers, and play fitfully with them for a season. Yet though she blinded her eyes, if she could, to the fact, the truth remained, that dear as they were still, that, great as would still have been the sorrow had any untoward accident overwhelmed them, yet they were no longer necessary to her happiness.

The smaller people of doll's house size remained longer in constant use; mostly, doubtless, because they were not and never had been regarded as children, but as actors and actresses in a thousand thrilling dramas, and as such had not yet lost their special charm: whole romances could still be worked out in miniature by their aid. For the child had been from the first a story-weaver, and long hours were spent in filling book after book with pencilled tales and illustrations of the ideas that came so rapidly to the fast-developing brain. The strangest attitudes were often assumed for this occupation: the body extended face downwards flat upon a table, crouched frogwise on the floor, or resting on a couch, the book supported on flexed knees, never by any chance seated upright on a chair at a table. Again, those who loved the child did not interfere; taking care only that there was no lack of light on the work, they left the rest to Mother Nature, who knew so much better than they what of extension and relaxation each growing muscle most required. They knew, too, the weariness and thwarted development occasioned by the long hours of uniform position maintained at desks in schools. Meanwhile the hours spent in actual lesson-work were short and no evening study was allowed.

By-and-by, in the years fast approaching, they were aware that school discipline and the mingling with her fellows in work or play would benefit their dear one; but just now all stress and strain must be avoided. Nature's most perfect flower is unfolded from the bud over which no rude storms have swept, and which has been sheltered from the glare of the noon-day sun. So the child's life was regular, uneventful, as judged by the adult mind; to her, every moment seemed fraught with interest. She was beginning to know herself, and to feel a certain need of independence. She was given a room entirely to herself, her own chosen pictures adorned the walls, a curtained shelf held her very own books, and above it was another for her special treasures, mementoes of past Christmases and happy travels. Flowers and one dear photograph stood upon a daintily-covered table. The joy of possession was mingled with growing housewifely care.

At the same time those loving eyes marked a deeper growth, and here indeed they gazed with tender reverence. The child was awaking to a knowledge of soul. Her conscience became almost morbidly tender, she watched her words and actions with jealous care. This part of her nature was in danger of too rapid growth, and watchfulness was needed that no religious excitement should result in an unnatural and mal-formed fruit. The danger passed and the white flower of her soul expanded day by day.

Meanwhile, another part of her character opened out. The child became ambitious. She knew not exactly how or when, but something she must do for her day and generation. She would be a great painter, sculptor, writer, missionary; she could not just live and die, she felt she was born for something great. Her thoughts were all of the future.

And, even then, those about her realised that the child was already but a memory,—a lovely memory of the sunny past. In her place stood a thoughtful maiden looking' out on a widening world with the half-veiled eyes of dawning womanhood.

[We have been asked if a series of papers dealing with girls from twelve to sixteen could appear in the Review. The first of these papers, by Mrs. Hart-Davis, was issued in the February number.—Ed.]

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Feb 2009