The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
A Mother's Diary

contributed By Miss Beale
Volume 7, 1896, pgs. 46-51

[Dorothea Beale, 1831-1906, was Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College and never married. In Part I of this article, she states, "There has been placed in my hands by a member of our staff three little MS. volumes of more than a hundred pages each, written in the close compact hand of an earlier generation. The first volume contains a record of observations made during the infancy of her little son by the mother; it is dated nearly 50 years ago." The unidentified mother lives in India with her first baby, named Jamie.]

[Background information: British Colonialism in India. An ayah is a nurse who takes care of the children; a bearer is a male servant to care for male children.]

(Continued from Vol. VI p. 849)

"July 19th.--(Sketch of daily life at the age of one year.) He wakes about four a.m., is nursed, washed, dressed, and either drives out with us to B. Ghat and there gets into his wicker cart for his morning exercise, or if damp and rainy, he plays in the south room till about 7:30 a.m., when he is taken upstairs and plays with his toys, under the Durnan's care, till nearly eight. Then he is bathed in warm water, and is fed immediately after . . . He is quite happy after his breakfast, and amuses himself about the room till nine, when I go down to family prayer, and he plays in the adjoining room. Our breakfast follows, during which he crawls about the room shouting or chasing a toy, &c. . . . About ten he easily drops asleep, as the ayah sings to him in her arms. He generally wakes after twelve, and, after a cold wash, while seated on his cane moreh (stool) he enjoys more play, and at one p.m. looks out or calls for 'Mama.' I nurse him then . . . From two to four he plays . . . About four he gets fractious and generally has another little nap, and his second artificial meal at five. He is soon washed and dressed, and we drive out by six. He again goes in his little carriage along the promenade, when he enjoys throwing out his pillow for the ayah to pick up, and calls out to objects he passes, or shouts to children or people as if calling them . . . He seems in general a very happy disposition, and often very quietly so, yet he enjoys fun, and is very lively when his papa teases him, or the servants playfully try to wrest him from our arms. He only cries if hurt, hungry, or given from his parents to the servants, or if put to sleep against his will . . . I have omitted to note that a few days before baby completed his first year he cut a second lower tooth and a third upper one; in all five.

"July 20th.--I was to-day called to witness a new feat, and was indeed surprised to see our dear little one crawl (quite unaided) from the second to the third story of our lofty house. When he reached the landing-place he crawled about fast with delight at his own new achievement.

"August 7th.--He to-day for the first time attempted to walk downstairs alone, and managed it admirably, shifting his hands most adroitly along the rails as he descended each step, and if his dress be lightly held behind he will walk alone, but if this gentle hold on him be removed he sits down at once from fear of falling . . .

"August 10th and 11th.--He has been strangely fractious and wayward and willful, so unlike his happy little self. The sixth tooth is pressing through . . . He seems to have great sense for one so young, and shows it in understanding many little things which occur, which he seems to think about and examine, and then form some satisfactory conclusion on them. He shows no signs of being more than an ordinary child save that he observes acutely and seems to think over and examine into new things--thus he traced the ringing of a bell to the tongue within it, and on seeing us do anything new he tries to watch the process and imitate it . . .

"August 19th--Yesterday he was very hungry and no food ready, so I went to the top of the stairs and called the bearer and explained to baby, 'the milk was downstairs and the bearer would bring it.' He quite understood and was very patient till it came. To-day the ayah gave him some article to give to me, and on being told 'to give the shoes to Mama,' he at once complied. This he understood some weeks ago . . .

"August 25th.--(After showing dislike to a new nurse.) It has been a very marked trait in his character from early infancy to form decided opinions on countenances, and though very sociable with most people, he seems to form and retain strong prejudices to others. At six weeks old he so disliked a new Portuguese ayah (who certainly had a very dismal face) that we parted from her in a few days. It was amusing to remark his immediate delight at Mr. P's presence to-day. While he talked to my husband on business, baby beckoned to him and salaamed* and shouted to win his attention, but in vain. For a few moments Mr. P. took kind notice of him, and shewed him his hat and gloves, but he was intent on the kind face and voice above him . . . When Mr. P. left, baby cried after him, and on taking him to the stairs he called out eagerly, 'on, on,' but on Mr. P. disappearing he cried hopelessly till I diverted his attention. Mr. C. called the day before yesterday, but baby showed no such preference for him.

* [Salaam: a low bow of deference]

"Sept. 5th.--Our dear child may be said to have begun walking to-day, for he went across the room without assistance, and that several times during the day.

"Sept. 6th.--He enjoys prolonging his walking trips to-day, and runs along so fast, so eagerly and so merrily, that he falls at last on his hands quite unable to sustain his balance beyond a minute or two. His joy at the acquisition of this new power is very delightful to witness . . .

"Sept. 15th.--We spent this day at Cossipore, with Mrs. N., and I was glad to find baby liked the society of her two children, and was very happy with them all day. He has had no companionship with others, and I rather apprehended he might be selfish and exclusive in his amusements, as most only children are, but as yet this is not the case . . .

[Cossipore, or Kashipur, is in West Bengal.]

"To-day he was taken too suddenly into another room to sleep, and resisted strongly. I laid him on my lap, but he continued wayward, and I was impatient in my manner towards him, when he was so hurt that he burst into tears and sobbed piteously . . . Knowing he was more distressed than angry, I kissed him and played with him, which soon dispelled his tears and he lay down quietly to sleep; but something disturbed him and he began again to sit up, so I said decidedly, 'Now Mama will go away.' A brief cry followed, and then all was quiet and he was soon asleep. I mention this case as a kind of epitome of his general disposition. He is by no means sensitive or easily offended, but when convinced that we mean to be harsh, his spirit is quite tender and overwhelmed with sorrow. His grief does not partake at all of temper, and he can be easily won out of it to be happy and amused again. If he is wayward and naughty, and we decided and firm in opposition, he very soon makes up his mind to yield to the point at issue . . . Lately he has often repeated 'Papa' and 'Mama,' as if he enjoyed saying these words over and over again.

"Nov. 9th.--Since last entry about six weeks ago, Jamie's mind has developed much. Now he learns the name of a new object with facility, and remembers it generally, though he cannot utter it; and also in Hindostanee the names for cow, hat, parasol . . . He understands much of what is said to him or in his hearing, or at least guesses the chief subject in a sentence. Thus, when I lately told the bearer to brush his hair, he took hold of his curls and looked significantly at me . . . Just before we left home on Oct. 18th, he began to get rather fractious from the irritation of two first double teeth . . . One day, when he had gone on fretting and no entreaties or commands would prevail on him to be quiet, I patted him and left him on the bed; he cried hard, but, on my asking if he were good, readily stood up to be lifted off the bed, but continued fretting. I again vainly expostulated and then laid him down. After a while he was quiet and I released him, but on my asking a kiss he would not give me one. I feared further trial of his spirit, and so let him run away, But I felt sad that my dear boy should indulge a spirit of resentment, and I thought it wrong to let him forget in play this late battle, while he was unreconciled to me. So after a little reflection I went to him and said, 'Baby is not good; he has not kissed Mama.' He tried to divert me by chatting merrily in his own style, and I saw he was trying to look bold. I said to the servants, 'Do not play with Baby, he is not good,' and then I went and sat with Paul (the bearer) to hear him read the Bible. Presently Baby came and tried to attract my attention by pointing, laughing, &c. I looked grave. He ran away and came with some pieces of a broken vessel, which he put into my hand. I would not take them. He turned the palm of my hand upwards and laid the pieces on it and went away. Again hem came with other pieces, and was less mirthful in his manner, and looked grave and doubtful. Paul said to him 'Kiss Mama.' A moment the dear child's face looked rigid, as if these words were stirring up his pride. I drew him to me, and asked him if he would kiss me. He did so immediately, and at once his manner altered--he threw himself backwards on my lap and seemed to enjoy the sense of happiness afresh. His joy became genuine instead of an assumed gaiety, and he soon entered with heart into his little plays. I must own I was much touched and surprised by this incident. I did not think at 13 months old the power of conscience could have been so strong. It was quite plain that this infant was conscious of having done wrong, was uneasy at it--could not confess his error from the struggles of pride, but continued unhappy till he had gained a victory over it, and the moment he had done right he was happy!

"1848. Jan 11th--He has lately begun to connect words, and has learned lately 'Auntie,' 'Jessie.' These he learned as soon as they were suggested to him, and his pleasure was exquisite at being able to utter them . . .

"Feb. 1st.--Jamie continues to make strong efforts to converse with us by looks, gestures, and an eager utterance of various sounds, as if he were talking to us . . . I am often led to the bookshelf to show him a picture book. I adopted the plan of showing him one painting only each day. While looking for a new picture he gets into such a happily excited state, and gives a shrill chuckle, showing his tiny teeth so sweetly. He knows all the parts of an animal, and points also to trees, flowers, water, a man, a hat, a boat, &c. . .  

He is shy or would speak more, for I find, on occasions of haste or being taken by surprise, he utters words he had never before uttered, and on being asked to repeat them he will not do so . . . I wish to notice some symptoms of timidity which have distressed me . . . He has turned pale on seeing a cat run through the room . . . though very curious to look at it. Again, a pig of Mr. B.'s strayed over here a few days ago, and on being captured, it squealed and struggled frightfully. Jamie was in much alarm, and even trembled from nervousness, yet he longed to watch what was passing . . . We met a calf in our evening walk, and being a new animal to him, I saw the struggle between a desire to examine it and a fear of its approach. Yet, when bidden he stroked it. Last night we had a thunderstorm, which alarmed him . . . After each clap he would say, with a doleful face, 'Ma-ma, Ma-ma, oouh,' which he repeated in a long solemn tone. I tried to divert his mind, or said, simply and cheerfully, 'The sky is speaking.' At length he seemed so tired and excited that we sent him to bed. In about two minutes after, I found the poor little fellow fast asleep . . .

"March 17th.--To-day I was very poorly, and his distress at seeing me sick was great. When I was better and lying down, he came and kissed me with a fond earnest manner, and could with difficulty be induced to continue his dinner. After awhile he resumed it, but repeatedly ran to me to stroke my face and kiss me, and then went back for a few mouthfuls of food. It was very touching to witness this proof of his tender, considerate disposition.

"March 29th.--Some weeks ago I fancied he had acquired the idea of number. To-day, I feel quite sure. On shewing him a new picture book, in which were two old men on separate leaves, he looked at one and called him an old man, and then also so named the other, and added, 'two old men.'

"April 11th.--We have tried to enumerate the words he can utter, and they amount to about 35 . . . Two points of character conspicuous from infancy are a strong memory and great perseverance. It has always been difficult to make him forget any subject once started by him, or to divert him from pursuing any idea in connection with it . . . He never forgets a new idea or word when once learned, though it may not have been alluded to again for a considerable time . . . It is strange to witness the mixture of ingenuousness and art in so young a child. He often, when he has done wrong, comes and tells us that it was done by 'baba,' but sometimes, when about to be punished for a fault, he uses every artifice to divert us from our purpose by talking of something irrelevant, or begging his papa (who was on the point of patting him) to be seated, and assisting him to his chair and bidding him eat his breakfast . . . Sometimes, when forbidden to go to some spot, he has thrown a toy there and run to pick it up, as if compelled thereby to disobey . . .

"June 9th.--He is getting on so fast in talking that I cannot enumerate his new words.

"July 19th.--He is two years old."

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