Thoughts on Maternity, Maternal Instincts, and Schooling – Bill Arp, 8/131891

Thoughts on Maternity, Maternal Instincts, and Schooling – Bill Arp, 8/13/1891

The most vital, providential and beautiful trait in our humanity is the maternal instinct. The love and care which a mother
has for her offspring is the saving grace of childhood. Without it the little helpless things would perish in their infancy,
and the world become depopulated. For years and years I have watched these mothers-watched and wondered-and
to my mind there is no greater proof of the love of God to the human race, than the intense, all-absorbing love of a
mother for her child. This love is not founded in any philosophy that we can understand. Why should she love one
child more than another? Why love her own ill-favored, fretful, troublesome offspring more than the beautiful affectionate
child of her neighbor? There are 65,000,000 people in the United States, and every one of them had a mother-I reckon
-though the scriptures do speak of “man that is born of woman,” like there might be some other sort somewhere.
Perhaps 64,000,000 of them had a mother’s love and care during infancy, and if that love and care could have been
exclusive, uninterrupted and unprejudiced by outside influences what a world of good people we would have. I was
ruminating about this the other night, because about midnight,-when deep sleep falleth upon a man,” but not upon a
woman with an infant child, there was an alarm up stairs, my wife struck a match and hurried up to find a little grandchild
suffering with the croup. There is nothing in the world that so alarms a young mother as the croup. It comes so suddenly,
and with such a sharp, metallic, unnatural crowning sound that death seems right at the door, and what is to be done
must be done quickly or not at all. The anxious mother trembles and pitiously begs for help-help to save her child, her
only child but Mrs. Arp has raised ten from the cradle to courting time, and they have all had the croup, a good deal of
croup, and it is hard to scare an old soldier ; but still she has a holy horror of this insidious, night-loving, treacherous
disease, and she goes to fighting it like killing snakes.

Syrup of ipecac is her favorite remedy, but she uses warm lard and turpentine, and flax seed, and onion juice, and calomel,
and Dover’s powder, and liniment, and warm water, and lobelia and nitrate of silver and some other things when necessary, according to circumstances and some of them always do the work and bring relief, and I have thought that if a small portion
of all these remedies was put in one bottle and well shaken before taken, it would cure most infirmity that flesh is heir to.
We were talking about the alarm we had the other night and I remarked that the inflamation of the mucous membrane of
the larynx was always attended with -“It was croup,” said Mrs. Arp, “the child had the croup.” , “Of course,” said I, “but you
know my dear, that when the trachea and bronchial tubes become partially obstructed with false membranes-” “The child
had the croup.” said she. “It was a clear case of old-fashioned croup.” “Under such circumstances,” said I, “it is essential
that the inner cuticle of the larynx be suffused with absorbents, and the outer epidermis be subjected to counter irritants
because-” “Syrup of ipecac is better than either,” said she, and so I subsided. The next morning after a case of croup, my
wife begins with calomel and quinine to work off the cold, and she generally prevents a return. She takes the lead as the
family doctor, and keeps on hand a pretty fair drug store. All I have to do in such emergencies is to stand around and be
handy, and move with alacrity-and wait-on her, and fire up the stove and bring hot water, and spill some of it on my bare
feet and never flinch. If croup was the only infantile trouble our conjugal life would have had a fair share of felicity, but there
has been the wear and anxiety of teething and colic and scarlatina and whooping cough and measles and mumps and
wounds and bruises without number, but it’s all over at last, for the crop is laid by. We are playing patriarchs now, and
helping these young mothers when we can, but we have lots of rest and our old age is calm and serene. Mrs. Arp is, I
know for she is on the go more than I ever knew her, and hasn’t any carriage to go in either, and she is president of the
missionary society, and takes missionary papers, and takes all my little money too, and the tennis court is right close to
the church where the missionaries meet, and I I never know where she is exactly, and last night she went to the blind
man’s concert, and I had to stay at home with the young mother and her child for fear of accident.

That is all right Mrs. Arp said she would stay if I wanted to go, but she didn’t say it very strong, and I meekly told her I didn’t
care to go, so it’s all right. I wanted the young mother to go, too, and leave the child with me, but she looked surpnsed and
said: “No indeed, I wouldn’t leave my child for all the shows in the world.” And that’s why I was ruminating over the maternal
instinct, and I wish that it prevailed all over the world, and would keep these city mothers more at home, instead of going to
the theaters and operas most every night and leaving their tender off-spring with a nurse or some poor, tired old mother. If
a woman has no little children, and wants to preach or exhort or do something to reform mankind, nobody ought to object, provided she is fit for the business; but there are not many of that kind in this part of the country–not enough to surprise and
alarm the press or people-and so we will not make any fuss about it. Ninety-nine out of a hundred had rather be mothers at
home than speakers abroad, and always will I reckon. It is the maternal instinct that makes women the best teachers in our schools where the pupils are generally of tender years. Tender is the word. When a boy gets tough he a should be taught by
a man-and he generally is. A tough rough boy has no business in a woman’s school. It is fit that a woman should teach and
train the young children. Her kind manners and womanly sympathy refines them and supplements their mothers training at
home. Just as a little girl loves her doll, so does woman love a child-anybody’s child. Just as a little boy does not love a
doll, so does not a man love other people’s children. Thanks to human progress, women are now the educators of children
on all this broad land. There is nothing in the calling that militates against their modesty or purity of thought, or seclusion
from contact with the world, but how far beyond this a women can go and yet preserve her womanly modesty, her self
respect, and the respect of the opposite sex, I do not know. We read that the warden of Sing Sing was interviewed the
other day, and was asked what was the prime cause that brought the prisoners there. It seems that the law makes it his
duty to obtain a short biography of every one, and he answered promptly: “The lack of parental control at home, and
moral training in the schools.”

And yet there are fathers who turn their boys loose at an early age, and if a conscientious teacher tries to restrain them it
provokes a war and raises a rumpus all over the town. The old landmarks are better than the new ones in this regard. There
are little sons of respectable parents who go by my house every day smoking cigarettes, and I have seen them beg them of
a passing negro, and yet those parents wouldn’t believe it if told, and perhaps would be very indignant if they were punished
for it by the teacher. What man would give those boys a place in his , office, or his store, or his shop? What man would trust
them with his accounts? It is hard upon a taxpayer who has no chi!dren to be compelled to help educate other people’s
children, and he is only reconciled and submits because it is best for the state that ail the children should be educated.
There is a growing, increasing doubt upon this subject, especially considering the tax that is upon us to educate the negro
children and the little good and less thanks we get for it. There are many conservative thinkers who object to being taxed
to educate the children of the wealthy, but who would submit cheerfully to a tax for the poor. Private schools are becoming
more ” popular than public schools, because there is more heard of them and better associations, but if we must have
public schools let the parents stand to the teachers and sustain them. They are the best watched people in the world,
for besides the board of trustees every child is a detective and every mother a sentinel on the outsposts. It takes
a smart man ar a gifted woman to please them all.

Last Updated on July 13, 2021 by Bill Arp

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