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Title: Child Versus Parent - Some Chapters on the Irrepressible Conflict in the Home
Author: Wise, Stephen
Language: English
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  _Some Chapters on the Irrepressible Conflict
  in the Home_



  Author of "The Ethics of Ibn Gabirol," "How to Face Life,"
  "Free Synagogue Pulpit," etc.

  New York

  _All rights reserved_


  COPYRIGHT, 1922,

  Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1922.




  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

       I. FACING THE PROBLEM                          1

      II. BACK OF ALL CONFLICTS                      11


      IV. THE ART OF PARENTAL GIVING                 30

       V. THE OBLIGATION OF BEING                    41

      VI. WARS THAT ARE NOT WARS                     53

     VII. CONFLICTS IRREPRESSIBLE                    62

    VIII. CONFLICTING STANDARDS                      69



      XI. THE OBSESSION OF POSSESSION                94

     XII. PARENTS AND VICE-PARENTS                  104

    XIII. WHAT OF THE JEWISH HOME?                  113

     XIV. THE JEWISH HOME TODAY                     120




One way of averting what I have called the irrepressible conflict is
to insist that, in view of the fundamental change of attitude toward
the whole problem, the family is doomed. Even if the family were
doomed, some time would elapse before its doom would utterly have
overtaken the home. In truth, the family is not doomed quite yet,
though certain views with respect to the family are,--and long ought
to have been,--extinct. Canon Barnett[A] was nearer the truth when he
declared: "Family life, it may be said, is not 'going out' any more
than nationalities are going out; both are 'going on' to a higher
level." To urge that the problem of parental-filial contact need not
longer be considered, seeing that the family is on the verge of
dissolution, is almost as simple as the proposal of the seven-year-old
colored boy in the children's court, in answer to the kindly inquiry
of the Judge: "You have heard what your parents have to say about you.
Now, what can you say for yourself?" "Mistah Judge, I'se only got dis
here to say: I'd be all right if I jes had another set of parents."

For the problem persists and is bound to persist as long as the
relationships of the family-home obtain. The social changes which have
so markedly affected marriage have no more elided marriage than the
vast changes which have come over the home portend its dissolution. It
is as true as it ever was that the private home is the public hope. A
nation is what its homes are. With these it rises and falls, and it
can rise no higher than the level of its home-life. Marriage, said
Goethe, is the origin and summit of civilization; and Saleeby[B]
offers the wise amendment: "It would be more accurate to say 'the
family' rather than marriage." Assuming that the family which is the
cellular unit of civilization will, however modified, survive modern
conditions, the question to be considered is what burdens can the
home be made to assume which properly rest upon it, if it is to remain
worth while as well as be saved?

Nothing can be more important than to seek to bring to the home some of
the responsibilities with which other agencies such as school and church
are today unfitly burdened. False is the charge that school and church
fail to co-operate with the home. Truer is the suggestion that church
and school have vainly undertaken to do that which the home must largely
do. The teacher in church and school may supplement the effort of the
parent but cannot and may not be asked to perform the work of parents.
The school is overburdened to distraction, the church tinkers at tasks
which in the nature of things must fall to parents or be left undone.
And the school is attempting to become an agency for the universal
relief of the home, which cannot be freed of its particular
responsibilities even by the best-intentioned school or church.

Another quite obvious thesis is that conflicts arise between parents
and children not during the time of the latter's infancy or early
childhood but in the days of adolescence and early adulthood. The
real differences--rather than the easily quelled near-rebellions of
childhood--come to pass when child and parent meet on terms and
conditions which seem to indicate physical and intellectual equality
or its approach. I do not say that the processes of parental guidance
are to be postponed until the stage of bodily and mental equivalence
has been reached but that the conflicts are not begun until what is or
is imagined to be the maturity of the child raises the whole problem
of self-determination. The latter is a problem not of infants and
juveniles but of the mature and maturing.

It may be worth while briefly to indicate the various stages or phases
of the relationship of parents and children. In the earliest period,
parents are for the most part youngish and children are helpless. This
period usually resolves itself into nothing more than a riot of
coddling. In the next stage, parents begin to approach such maturity
as they are to attain, while children are half-grown reaching ten or
twelve years. This is the term of unlessened filial dependence,
though punctuated by an ever-increasing number of "don't." In the
third stage parents at last attain such maturity as is to be their
own,--years and maturity not being interchangeable terms,--for,
despite mounting years some parents remain infantile in mind and
vision and conduct. Children now touch the outermost fringe or border
of maturity in this time of adolescence, and the stage of friction,
whether due to refractory children or to undeflectible parents,
begins. Coddling has ended, or ought to have ended, though it may
persist in slightly disguised and sometimes wholly nauseous forms.
Dependence for the most part is ended, save of course for that
economic dependence which does not greatly alter the problem.

The conflict now arises between what might roughly be styled the
parental demand of dutifulness and the equally vague and amorphous
filial demand for justice--justice to the demands of a new
self-affirmation, of a crescent self-reliance. And after the storm and
fire of clashing, happily there supervenes a still, small period of
peace and conciliation unless in the meantime parents have passed, or
the conflict have been followed by the disaster of cureless
misunderstanding. It may be well, though futile, to remind some children
that it is not really the purpose of their parents to thwart their will
and to stunt their lives and that the love of parents does not at filial
adolescence, despite some Freudian intimations, necessarily transform
itself into bitter and implacable hostility. To such as survive, parents
aging or aged and children maturing or mature, this ofttimes becomes the
period most beauteous of all when children at last have ceased to make
demands and are bent chiefly upon crowning the aging brows of parents
with the wreath of loving-tenderness.

One further reservation it becomes needful to make. I must need limits
myself more or less to parental-filial relations as these develop in
homes in which it becomes possible for parents consciously to influence
the lives of their children, not such in which the whole problem of life
revolves around bread-winning. I do not consider the latter type of home
a free home. It is verily one of the severest indictments of the social
order that in our land as in all lands bread-winning is almost the sole
calling of the vast majority of its homes. I do not maintain that all
problems are resolved when this problem is ended, but the fixation
respectively of parental and filial responsibilities hardly becomes
possible under social-industrial conditions which deny leisure and
freedom from grinding material concern to its occupants.

The miracle of high nurture of childhood is enacted in countless homes
of poverty and stress, but the miracle may not be exacted. It was hard
to resist a bitter smile during the days of war, when the millions were
bidden to battle for their homes. Under the stress of war-conditions,
some degree of sufficiency, rarely of plenty, fell to the lot of the
homes of toil and poverty--the customary juxtaposition is not without
interest. But now that the war is ended, the last concern of the masters
of industry is to maintain the better and juster order of the war days,
and the primary purpose seems to be to penalize "the over-rewarded and
greedy toilers" of the war-days, selfishly bent upon extorting all the
standards of decent living out of industry.

Cutting short this disgression, the direst poverty seems unable to
avert the wonder of parents somehow rearing their children to all the
graces of noble and selfless living. But, I repeat, this is a largesse
to society on the part of its disinherited, whose high revenge takes
the form of giving their best to the highest. We may, however, make
certain demands upon the privileged who reward themselves with leisure
and all its pleasing tokens and symbols. For these at least have the
external materials of home-building. Need I make clear that the homes
of too much are as gravely imperilled as the homes of too little?

Many homes survive the lack of things. Many more languish and perish
because of the superabundance to stifling of things, things, things.
The very rich are ever in peril of losing what once were their homes,
a tragedy almost deeper than that of the many poor who have no home to
lose. The law takes cognizance in most one-sided fashion of the fact
that a home may endure without moral foundations but that it cannot
exist without material bases. Despite attempts on the part of the
State or States to avert the breaking up of a home solely because of
the poverty of the widowed mother, it still is true that many homes
are broken up on the ground of poverty and on no other ground. Saddest
of all, mothers take it for granted that such break-up is unavoidable.

Only two reasons justify the State's withdrawal of a child from its
parental roof,--incurable physical and mental disability in a child,
whose parents are unable to give it adequate care, or moral disability
on the part of parents. If the latter ground be valid, material
circumstances ought no more to hold parent and child together than the
absence of them ought to drive parent and child apart. A child
resident on Fifth Avenue in New York may be in greater moral peril
than a little waif of Five Points. Societies for the prevention of
cruelty to children ought to intervene as readily when moral leprosy
notoriously pervades the home of the rich as the State intervenes when
children's health is neglected or their moral well-being endangered in
a home of poverty. I have sometimes thought that an orphan asylum
ought to be erected for the benefit of the worse than orphaned
children of some notoriously corrupt, even when not multi-divorced,
heads of society. Such a protectory for the unorphaned, though not
fatherless and motherless, might serve a more useful purpose than do
such orphanages as, having captured a child, yield it up reluctantly
even to the care of a normal home.



It may seem to be going rather far back, to be dealing with the
problem _ab ovo et ab initio_, to hold as I do that much of the
clashing that takes place between the two generations in the home is
the outcome of an instinctive protest against the unfitness of the
elders to have become parents. It is far more important to speak to
parents of their duty to the unborn than to dwell on filial piety
touching parents living or dead. Children have the right to ask of
parents that they be well-born. Such children as are cursed and doomed
to be born may not only curse the day that they were born but them
that are answerable for the emergence from darkness to darkness.

Even if we did not insist upon dealing with fundamentals, children
would, and they will, question the right of unfit parents to have
begotten them. A new science has arisen to command parents not only
"to honor thy son and thy daughter" but so to honor life in all its
sanctity and divineness as to leave a child unborn,--if they be unfit
for the office of parenthood. Honor thy father and thy mother living
or dead is good; but not less good is it to honor thy son and
daughter, born and unborn. Some day the State,--you and I,--will step
in and enforce this command and will visit its severest condemnation
and even penalty upon parents, not because a child has been born to
them illegitimately in a legal or technical sense, but because in a
very real and terrible sense they have been guilty of mothering and
fathering a child into life which is not wholly viable--that is
unendowered with complete opportunity for normal living.

Some day we shall surround marriage and child-bearing with every
manner of safeguard and ultimately the major findings of eugenics will
be embodied into law and statute. The duty of parents to a child born
to them is high, but highest of all at times may be the duty of
leaving children unborn. Race suicide is bad, but an unguided and
unlimited philoprogenitiveness may be worse. About a decade ago, it
was considered radical on the part of certain representatives of the
church to announce that they would not perform a marriage ceremony for
a man and woman, unless these could prove themselves to be physically
untainted. Later the States acted upon this suggestion and forbade
certain persons entering into the marriage relation.

Some day we shall pass from what I venture to call negative and physical
malgenics to positive and spiritual eugenics. The one is necessary to
insure the birth of healthy and normal human animals: the latter will be
adopted in the hope of making possible the birth and life of normal
souls. The normal, wholesome, untainted body must go before, but it can
only go before. For it is not an end to itself but means to an end, and
that end the furtherance of the well-being of the immortal soul.

But in reality the eugenic responsibility of parents is a negative one
and, being met, the second and major responsibility remains to be met.
The former involves a decision; the latter the conduct of a lifetime.
Once upon a time and not so long ago, it might have been said that
parents are not responsible for the heredity of which they are the
transmitters. Today, with certain limitations, we charge parents with
the responsibility of heredity which they bestow or inflict as well as
with the further and continuous responsibility of environment.
Whatever may be held with respect to the duty of parents as
"hereditarians," there can be no doubt that it is the obligation of
parents consciously to determine, as far as may be, the content of the
home environment. I would go so far, and quite unjestingly, as to
maintain that the least some parents can do for their children is
through environmental influence to neutralize the heredity which they
have inflicted upon them. Unhappily, it may be, we cannot choose our
grandparents, but we can in some measure choose our grandchildren.

But environmental influence is more than a mouth-filling phrase.
Parenthood and the begetting of children are not quite interchangeable
terms. The continuity of parental functioning is suggested by the Hebrew
origin of the term, child, which is etymologically connected with
builder, parents being not the architects of a moment but the builders
of a lifetime. This means that we are consciously to determine the
apparently indeterminable atmosphere of our children's life and home.
That this involves care of the bodily side of child-being goes without
saying, but, as we have in another chapter pointed out, this stress
seems to be needless. The primary and serious responsibility of parents
is bound up with the education of a child. And the first truth to be
enunciated is that parents can no more leave to schools the intellectual
than to priest and church the moral training of a child.

I remember to have asked a father in a mid-Western city to which it
had been brought home that its schools were gravely inadequate--why
he, a man of large affairs, did not set out to remedy the conditions.
His answer was, "I do my duty to the schools when I pay my school
taxes." This was not only wretched citizenship but worse parenthood
and still worse economics. It does much to explain the failure of the
American school which is over-tasked by the community and pronounced
a bankrupt, because it cannot accept every responsibility which the
parental attitude dumps upon it. However much the school can do and
does, it cannot and should not relieve the home of duties which
parents have no right under any circumstances to shirk. A wise teacher
in a distant city once wrote to me, having reference to the peace
problem: "I personally see no hope for peace until something spiritual
is substituted for the worship of the golden calf. And as a teacher I
must say, if I speak honestly, that there is an increasing aversion to
solitude and work both on the part of parents and pupils, due to false
viewpoints of values and as to how the genuine can be acquired."

Two of the, perhaps the two, most important influences in the life of
the child are dealt with in haphazard fashion. Parents later wonder
where children have picked up their strange ideals and their
surprising standards. Not a few of the roots of later conflict can be
traced back to the earlier years, when children find themselves in
schools wholly without parental co-operation and flung at amusements
bound to have a disorganizing effect upon their lives. While parents
must accept the co-operation of the school, the latter cannot be a
substitute for the home nor the teacher a substitute for the parent.
The school cannot operate in the place of the home, though it may
co-operate with it. The school cannot do the work of a mother, not
even the work of a father.

The same is true of parents in relation to college and university.
Again I am thinking not of the youth who works and wins his way to and
through college but of that type of family in which a college
education for the children is as truly its use and habit as
golf-playing by the father after fifty. The college-habit, I have
said, is a bit of form when it is not a penalty visited upon a youth,
who, after an indifferent or worse record at a preparatory school,
must be forced into and through college. All of the consequences of
college-education except a degree many somehow manage to avert.
College education should be offered to youth as opportunity or reward,
or parents will come to be shocked by the futility of it and the
almost uniformly evil sequelae thereof. And parents have the right as
upon them lies the duty to insist that their sons shall not loaf and
rowdyize through four years at college and, when they do acquiesce in
the ways and manner and outlays of the college-loafer and the
college-rounder, they must not expect a bit of parchment to convert
him into an alert, ambitious, industrious youth. If they do, as they
are almost certain to do, the conflict will begin.



I have sometimes thought that a glimpse of the want of deep and
genuine concern touching the education of children is to be gotten in
the rise of summer camps in great numbers during recent years. I do
not deny the place or value of a camp for children and youth. I have
come into first-hand contact with some admirable camps for boys and
girls and, as I looked at some visiting parents, could not avoid the
regret that the separation between parent and child was to be of a
brief summer's duration. Two months in the year of absence from the
home can hardly suffice to neutralize the effect of ten months of
parental presence and contact. I quite understand that the ideal
arrangement in some homes would be to send the child to camp during
the summer months and to send the parents out of the home, anywhere,
during the rest of the year, an arrangement that is not quite
feasible in all cases.

My query is--granted the value of the camp, how many parents have
thought the problem through for themselves, a query suggested not by
the inferior character of some camps, but by the celerity with which
the camp-craze has swept over the country. In many camps children are
sure to profit irrespective of the character of the home whence they
are sent, but surely there are some camps a stay in which can but
little benefit children. Now why do camps so speedily multiply, and
why are children being sent to them in droves? The real reason is
other than the oft-cited difficulty of placing children decently in
other than summer hotels.

The instant vogue of summer camps met a parental need, the need of
doing something with and for children with whom, released from school,
parents did not know how to live, finding in the camp an easy way out
of a harassing difficulty. Why do parents so live that in order to
have a simple, wholesome life for their children, it is necessary to
send them off to the woods in so-called camps the charm of which lies
in their maximum difference from hotels and in their parentlessness?
The unreasoned haste with which children flocked in multitudes to the
camps is a testimony to the failure of parents to live in normal,
intimate contact with their children, and a prophecy, I have no doubt,
of the conflict certain to develop out of the stimulated difference in
tastes between child and parents.

I, too, believe that children, especially city-reared children with
all their sophistications and urbanities, should be brought nearer to
the simplicities of nature during the vacation period. But why not by
the side and in the company when possible of parents? The truth is
that, apart from the merits and even excellence of some camps, parents
are so little accustomed to living with their children that when the
summer months force the child into constant contact with parents, the
latter grow embarrassed by the necessity for such contact, and the
camp is chosen as a convenient way out of a serious domestic problem.
My complaint is not against camps but against the multiplication of
them necessitated by the helplessness of parents who face the need of
sharing the life of their children. And some of these parents are the
very ones who will later wonder that "our children have grown away
from us."

I am often consulted by parents who express their grief at that strange
bent in their children, which moves a son or daughter to seek out low
types of amusement and the companionship bound up therewith. I quiz the
complaining parents and learn that no attempt was ever made parentally
to cultivate cleaner tastes, that the child was incessantly exposed to
all the vulgarities and indecencies of the virtually uncensored motion
picture theatre. Recreation is become a really serious problem in our
time, immeasurably more important than it was in the youth of the now
middle-aged, such as the writer, when a Punch and Judy show and a most
mild and quite immobile picture or stereopticon were considered the
outstanding entertainments of the year.

How many parents take their children's amusement seriously, as they
take their own, and are concerned that these shall be, as they can be
made, free from all that is vulgar and unclean? If the well-to-do,
who might have other recreations, are given to the motion picture, is
it to be wondered at that in the poorer quarters of New York, if a
child be too small to be tortured by being kept at the side of its
parents throughout a motion picture performance, it may be checked in
its go-cart as one would check an umbrella. There is an electric
indicator on the side of the screen which flashes the check-number to
inform parents when their child is in real or fancied distress.

A writer in the _Outlook_, May 19, 1915, deals with the vulgarizing of
American children and particularly the vulgarizing and corrupting power
of the movies. He commented editorially, as I have done elsewhere, on
the extraordinary absence of parental care for the minds of children in
curious contradiction to the supersedulous care of the body: "Many
influences are at work to vulgarize American children, and little is
done by many parents to protect the mental health of their children.
Neither time nor money is spared to preserve them in vigor and strength,
to protect them from contamination. Meanwhile, those minds are the prey
of a great many influences, which, if not actually evil, are
vulgarizing. What is going on is not so much the corruption of young
people in America as their vulgarization." Parents are not less
vulgarized, but the awakening and shock come when children are grown and
are found to show the effects of what was innocent amusement, of what
proves to have been deeply corrupting and degrading to the spirit.

But it is not enough for parents to censor the theatres frequented by
their children and when they can to debar them from attendance at
disgustingly "sexy" plays. It is their business as far as they can to
cultivate in their children the love of the best in letters and in the
arts. It is not enough to call a halt to the pleasure-madness of our
children; it is needful that their recreations be guided into
wholesome and creative channels. Happily books and pictures and,
though less so, music, are accessible to all, and it remains true that
we needs must love the highest when we see or hear it. Intellectual
companionship is a primal necessity in the home contacts. Partially
because of the craze for visible and audible entertainment, we have
lost the habit of reading. Why trouble to plough for ten or twelve
hours through a volume when one may look upon its contents picturized
within the duration of an evening's performance at the theatre and in
addition the "evil of solitariness" be avoided?

There is a real advantage in the old-time habit of reading aloud in
the home. It is one conducive to community of interest and a
heightened tone of home-contacts. It is far better to make dinner or
library conversation revolve around worth-while books than worthless
persons. It may not be easy for some parents to acquire or achieve
this home habit of reading aloud but it is of the highest importance
that children be enabled to respect their parents as thinking and
cultivated persons if these they can become. One cannot help
regretting that reading aloud is becoming a lost art. One hardly knows
how badly reading aloud can be done and how wretchedly it is for the
most part taught until one asks one's children to read aloud.

The choice and the art of reading can best be stimulated and guided
within the intimacy of the home. It may, as I have said, be difficult
for parents, especially fathers, to accustom themselves to the
practice of reading aloud. It may seem sternly and cruelly taskful to
read to and with one's children when it is so much pleasanter to
exercise one's mind at bridge whist with contemporaries or to yield to
the pleasurable anodyne of the "movies." And yet I do not know of a
truer service that parents can render children than to foster a taste
for worth-while books, for the best that has been said and sung, if
one may so paraphrase, so that these may know and love the great
things in prose and poetry alike. It is never too late to begin the
habit of reading any more than adults ever find it too late to learn
to dance or to play bridge.

Alice Freeman Palmer has put it[C]: "You will want your daughter to feel
that you were a student, too, when she becomes one, and that the
learning is never done as long as we are in God's wonderful world." What
a difference it will make when all mothers have such relations with
their children beside the life of love. When I say that it is for you to
live with your children, I do not mean that you are to go to the theatre
with them daily or thrice weekly, for that is merely sharing pastimes
with them. I say live with them, not merely join them in their
amusements. Not only is reading good and needful but the right kind of
reading. I sometimes wonder as I look upon cultivated persons handing
their adolescent children sheaves of magazines, cheap, vulgar, nasty. We
cannot expect that our children can for years feed upon the trivial and
ephemeral and then give themselves to things big and worth-while.

In one of his stimulating volumes,[D] Frederic Harrison suggests that
men who are most observant as to the friends they make or the
conversation they share are carelessness itself as to the books to
which they entrust themselves and the printed language with which they
saturate their minds. Are not parents often carelessness itself with
respect to the books to which even very young children are suffered to
entrust themselves? A book's not a book! Some books are vacant, some
are deadening, some are pestilential. Wisely to help children to the
right choice of books, remembering that reading is to be of widest
range and that in reading there are innumerable aptitudes, is to
render one of the most important of services to a child.

The editor of a woman's magazine recently pointed out that in one year
nine thousand eight hundred and forty-six girls wrote to her about
beauty problems, and seventeen hundred and seventy-six asked advice
with respect to other problems, "the throbbing, vital questions that
beset the social and business life of the modern girl." Out of what
kind of homes have come these young women, whose quest is of
complexion-wafers? The figures of the magazine editor are above all
things a _testimonium paupertatis_, intellectual and spiritual, to
multitudes of American homes. What kind of mothers will these young
women make? Do they dream of rearing fine sons and noble daughters, or
will they be satisfied to become child-bearers at best rather than
builders of men and women? But there is something more, and it is more
closely related to our particular problem. It is from the empty, poor,
however rich, homes that bitter protest and heartbreaking revolt will
emerge. For some children are bound in the end to despise the cramping
intellectual and moral poverty of their childhood homes,--whence
conflict takes its rise.



Parents must be made to see that the really irrepressible conflicts
are not begun when children are fourteen, sixteen and eighteen but
rather four, six, eight; in other words, are ascribable to causes long
anterior to the occasions which disclose their unavoidableness. Thus
parents may find themselves in collision with maturing children over
the utterly sordid and gleamless character of their lives, or, what is
not less grave in its consequences, their "visionary and impractical
ways, so different from our well-tried _modus vivendi_." It is quite
safe to predict the rise of conflict of one character or another when
parents are unmindful of the higher responsibilities of their
vocation, the responsibility of making clear to children the reality
of moral and spiritual values.

The supreme parental responsibility is to give or to help children to
achieve for themselves those standards by which alone men truly live,
to give to children the impulse that shall reveal not what they may live
by but what they ought to live for. The one potent way to avoid future
conflict is so to make for, not point to, a goal that children shall not
become mere money-grubbers or perpetuators of ancient prejudices or
maintainers of false values or lawless upholders of the law.

Parents would do well to have in mind that the most just and terrible
of reproaches are often left unspoken. I am thinking of a youth who
had inherited a very large fortune. Happening to point out to him to
what uses his means might be put, this youth replied: "My parents
never ceased to tell me what not to do, but they never told me what it
is that I ought to do. There are no _oughts_ in my life which I have
gotten from my father. I have learned what I ought not to do and I
suppose that I know that." This was the young heir's revolt and, if
his word be true, wholly just revolt against the spirit of those
parents who seem to imagine it to be enough if they teach their
children such fundamentals as the perils of violating statutory law,
the inexpediency of coming into conflict with those ordinances which
it is the part of convention never to violate.

In one word, it is not enough to forbid and interdict. Obedience to
_don'ts_, however multitudinous, is not even the beginning of morality
though it lead to a certain degree of personal security. Forbidding
one's children to steal may keep them out of jail, but that is hardly
the highest end of life. More must be given them, such affirmations of
faith and life as make for high ideals, for true standards, for real
values. I have heard parents, lamenting over a child's misconduct,
offer the following in self-exculpation: "I never did or said anything
that was wrong in the presence of my children," it being forgotten
that children may be present unseen, that they may overhear the
unuttered. But, one is tempted to ask, Did you by any chance or of
design say or do aught in the presence of your child that was
affirmatively and persuasively right?

I can never forget a scene I witnessed many years ago. Shortly after
the passing of his father, a son entered the death chamber, shook his
fist in the face of his dead father and exclaimed with tearless and
yet heartbreaking grief: "You are responsible for the ruin of my
life." Later I learned that the father was a mere accumulator of money
who had believed every paternal duty to have been fulfilled because he
gave and planned to bequeath possessions to his children. Multitudes
of parents there are who during their lifetime should be made
conscious of the lives they are suffering to go to wreck, theirs the
major responsibility. Happily for some parents, most children who
survey the ruin of their lives fail to fix the responsibility where it
properly belongs,--in parental neglect of the obligation to bring to
children moral stimulus and spiritual guidance.

But the important thing for parents is not to guard their speech lest
children overhear them but to guard their souls that children be free
to see all. If Emerson was right with respect to a man's character
uttering itself in every word he speaks, this is truest of all within
the microcosm of the home, wherein children are relentlessly attentive
to parental speech and silence alike, pitiless assessors of omission
as well as commission. What parents are, not what they would have
themselves imagined to be by children, shines through every word and
act, however scrupulous be parental vigilance over speech and conduct.
It may be very important for parents to be watchful of their tongues
as they are rather frequently urged to be. But it is rather more
imperative to be watchful over their lives. We are tempted to forget
that parental duties are positive as well as negative, that it is not
enough for parents not to hurt a child, not to do injury to his moral
and spiritual well-being. For of all beings parents must, paraphrasing
the word of the German poet, be aggressively and resistlessly good,
pervasively beneficent, throughout their contact with a child.

It is a problem whether it be more necessary to counsel children to
honor parents or to bid parents be deserving as far as they may be of
the honor of children. Years ago a great teacher of the nation pleaded
as men commonly plead for reverence and honor on the part of children
toward parents. But in truth we have no right to plead for reverence
filial unless to that plea there be added solemn entreaty to the
elders to make it possible for the young to do them reverence and
honor. When we, the elders of this day, bemoan the want of unity
between our children and ourselves, let us not be so sure of our
children's unworthiness but rather ask ourselves whether we are worthy
of that which our parents enjoyed at our hands, the reverence and
honor which must needs underlie unity in the home.

Honor, in a word, must lie in the daily living of parents ere they may
await it at the hands of children. The father, who is nothing more
than a cash register or coupon-scissors, is undeserving of honor from
children, however many and goodly be his gifts to them. And the
mother, whose life is given to the trivialities and inanities of every
season's mandate, merits not her children's reverence despite all
Biblical injunction. Children cannot be expected to do more than
outward and perfunctory obeisance to fathers who care solely for the
things of this world, success however achieved, money however gained
and used, power whatever its roots and purposes, nor do honor to
mothers whose passion is for the lesser and the least things of life.

I remember to have estranged a dear friend by urging in the pulpit that,
unless parents strive as earnestly to merit honor as children should
seek to yield it, they will not have it nor yet have been deserving of
it. Let us for a moment get a nearer glimpse of how the matter works out
from day to day. How can a mother whose life is spent in pursuit of the
worthless expect reverence, though the time may come when she will yearn
for it and rue her failure to have won it? The disease of incessant
card-playing has laid low multitudes of wives and mothers, that
card-gambling which has been described by former President Eliot as an
extraordinarily unintelligent form of pleasurable excitement.

There was a time when, in the speech of the Apocryphal teacher of
wisdom men strove for the prizes that were undefiled. But the prizes
of the card table are not only defiled but defiling. They fill the
lives of women not a few with mentally hurtful and morally enervating
excitement. The substitution of the delirium of the gaming table for
the durable satisfactions of life that come from worth-while
intellectual pursuits is ever a disaster. What manner of children are
to be reared by a generation of bridge-experts, of women half-crazed
with the pleasures of the card-table, to whom no prize of life is as
precious as the temptation of bridge-whist. I recently heard the
recital of a bit of conversation between parent and child: "Mother, is
card playing terribly important?" "Why do you ask?" "Well, I went to
see my aunt and she was playing cards with three friends, and, when
grandmother came into the room, no one rose to meet her. So I thought
that the game must be awfully important and the prizes very fine or
they would have arisen when grandma entered, wouldn't they?"

Even if there were no fear of later conflict, it would still be the
duty of parents to give themselves to children, that is to have
something to give, to make something of themselves that their gift be
worth while. And for the giving of self there can be no substitute
though one may reinforce oneself in many ways. Parents cannot give
themselves to children vicariously. A young woman, mother of a little
one which I had expected to find with her, calmly answered my inquiry
touching the child, "A child's place is with its nurse." One begins to
understand the tale of the little girl who declared that when she was
grown she wished to be a nurse so that she might be with her children.
There may be and are times when a child's place is with its nurse if
the household be burdened with one, but to lay it down as a general
rule that a child's place is always apart from its mother and by the
side of its nurse is to disclose the manner of maternal neglect in the
homes of many well-circumstanced folk. I have said before that Lincoln
is to be congratulated rather than commiserated with upon the fact
that he had little schooling and no nurses, seeing that in the place
of schools, teachers, nurses, governesses, he had a mother and the
immediacy of her unvicarious care.

Unless parental-filial contact be direct rather than intermediate,
parents cannot help a child to be as well as to have and to do, to
live as well as to earn a livelihood. Parents can give a child little
or nothing until they learn that a child is more than a body or
intellect, a body to be fed and clothed, a mind to be furnished and
trained. When parents come to remember that a child is, not has, a
soul to be developed, they will cease to stuff their children's bodies
and cram their minds while starving their souls. How often, alas, do
parents pamper their children in their lower nature while pauperizing
their higher nature, because of their failure to see that not alone
were they co-authors of a child-body but that they are to be the
continuing re-makers of a child's mind and spirit.

Are there quite enough parents like the father of a friend into whose
young hands at leave-taking from home his father placed a Bible and a
copy of the poems of Burns with the parting word,--Love and cling to
both, but if you must give up the Bible cling to Burns. But verily we
can give nothing more to our children than clothes and food and money
until we remember to make something of ourselves. It is not easy for
the stream of domestic influence to rise higher than the parental
level. Time and again I have heard a father exclaim: "I am going to
leave my boy so well off that he won't have to shoulder the burdens
which all but crushed me." Less often have I seen a father so rear
his son that he revealed his inmost purpose to be the fostering of his
son's nobleness. Are there as many parents who would have their
children finely serviceable as highly successful?



But the primary duty of parents is to learn and to teach that happiness
is not the supreme end of life and to dare to live it. We are so bent
upon giving to our children that we forget to ask aught of them. We seem
to be unmindful of what the wisest teacher of our generation has called
the danger of luxury in the lives of our children. Those parents who in
largest measure have learned to do without seem to think that they must
overwhelm their children with things. How many parents are equal to the
wisdom of the heroic Belgian mother who would not permit her children to
leave Belgium in the hour of its deepest stress and suffering, saying:
"Yes, we intended to take our children to England for safety but when we
remembered that in the future they might hold important positions in our
country and perhaps be influential in future leadership, we did not
want them to come to this work ignorant of what our people have
undergone and suffered during this terrible war. They would not have
known because they would have spent all the period of the war in
pleasant living in England. When we thought of this, we felt with
sinking hearts that we owed it to them and their country to keep them
here, though we knew and know now that there is great danger." Did not
this Belgian mother serve her children infinitely better than do those
parents who imagine that they must deny their children nothing save the
possibility of discomfort and want?

Edward Everett Hale tells a story which clearly shows what Emerson
thought best for a young man and wherein he conceived the
responsibility of parents to lie. I congratulated him as I
congratulated myself on the success of our young friend, and he said:
"Yes, I did not know he was so fine a fellow. And now, if something
will fall out amiss, if he should be unpopular with his class, or if
he should fail in business, or if some other misfortune can befall
him, all will be well." He himself put it, "Good is a good doctor,
but bad is sometimes a better."

With one further evil effect, perhaps the worst, of the habitude of
ceaseless parental giving, I have dealt elsewhere. It fosters more
than all else the parental sense of possession. Have I not given my
children everything?--asks a hyper-wasteful father or a
super-bounteous mother. Yes, it might be answered, you have given them
_everything_ and that is all you have given them. Giving a child
things without number is no guarantee of peace or beauty in the
parental-filial relation. Giving, giving, eternal giving is bound to
narcotize into sodden self-satisfaction, or at last to rouse to
protest an awakening soul. If, Mr. Successful or Madam Prosperous, you
think that you are satisfying your children because you are giving
them an abundance of things, you may be destined some day to suffer a
sorry awakening. Remember that too many things kill a home more surely
than too few. Children may ask and ought to ask more of parents than
things, and, far from being satisfied with things, they ought to
demand of parents that these minimize things and magnify that of
life which is unconditioned by things. To magnify the home is not to
furnish it richly but to give it noble content.

Over-stressing the physical side of the life of children and
under-emphasizing the spiritual side of their life leads inevitably to
certain results. Some years ago, I knew a family in which both parents
died within a brief period. There was some perfunctory grief, though
in each case the funeral was one of the new-fashioned kind, marked
alike by tearlessness and the use of motorcars. The interesting thing,
as I looked upon these comfortable, unworried, immobile children, was
that probably it had been the dream of the parents for a lifetime to
make their children comfortable and happy. Well, the parents had
wonderfully succeeded, had so succeeded in the matter of making their
children comfortable that not even the death of parents in swift
succession could shake them out of their deep-rooted comfortableness
even for a moment. Within a few weeks of the passing of the mother, I
met the son and heir--heir rather than son--at an amateur baseball
game in which he was one of the vociferous and gleesome
participants, with a cigar perched in his mouth at that angle which
is, I believe, considered good form at a baseball game.

As I surveyed that sorry specimen of filial impiety, apparently
without reverence for his parents or respect for himself, I was moved
to ask myself where lies the fault, whose the ultimate responsibility?
True enough, the children of those parents were rather empty-headed
and superficial beings, but it was the parents who were primarily at
fault. The mother was a blameless rather than a good woman, and the
father was an unseeing, soulless money-grubber with but one aim in
life--namely, to multiply his children's rather than his own comforts,
and to enable them to indulge in every manner of luxury. These gave
their children things and only things, and still there was something
touching in the devotion of the parents, however poor and mistaken its
objects. But there was something repulsive in the indifference of the
children to the parents who had lived for naught else than their
well-being, however mistakenly conceived.

Parents who give their children only things must face the fact that
they make themselves quite dispensable, seeing that they are not
things. For things and the wherewithal to secure them are alone
indispensable according to the parental standards. The ultimate
responsibility? Any possibility of change involves the re-education of
parents. Parents must learn long before parenthood what are the values
in life for which it is worth while to toil and to contend. The root
of the matter goes very deep in conformity to the hint of Oliver
Wendell Holmes with respect to the time at which a child's education
is to be begun.

Some years past, I came upon a ludicrous illustration of the maximum
care devoted to the physical nature and the minimum devoted to the
moral and spiritual nurture of child-life. I heard a very
well-circumstanced mother declare: "I never permit my child to have a
crumb of food handed it by its governess which has not previously been
tasted by me." Quite innocently I asked: "Where is the little
gentleman?" The answer was: "Napoleon--I call him that because his
name was Caesar--is at the 'movies' this afternoon." Upon further
inquiry, I learned that the mother did not know the name and nature of
the play upon which her son was looking, and that in order to keep him
out of mischief he was sent every afternoon to the motion picture
theatres. Here was the good mother tasting every mouthful fed to the
heir-apparent lest harm befall him, and, yet, he was spending an hour
or more daily in attendance at a motion-picture theatre where poison
rather than food might be and probably was fed to the child's mind.
But no hesitation and no fear were felt on that score. Underlying the
one concern and the other unconcern is a crude materialism which
assumes that the avenue of access to a child's well-being is feeding
but that the mind, howsoever fed and impoisoned, even of a little
child, could somehow be trusted to take care of itself.

There are certain things which we deny to our children partly because
we have them not, and yet again because we are not often conscious of
the need of them in the life of the child. I place first
spiritual-mindedness; second, the sense of humility, and third, the
art of service. These three graces must come again into the life of
our children from the life of their parents and they can hardly come
in any other way. If they come not, it will be an unutterable loss
from every point of view, remembering the word of a distinguished
university president, "the end of the home is the enlargement and
enrichment of personality, the performance of the duty owed to general
society in making contributions for its betterment."

I address myself particularly to Jewish parents when I say to them
that it is a terrible blunder to ignore the spiritual responsibility
which rests upon them. A Christian child is almost invariably touched
by the circumambient spiritual culture but the Jewish child is in the
midst of a non-Jewish culture and almost untouched by spiritual
influences. The home gives little, the Jewish religious school gives
no more than a fragmentary education in the things of Jewish history
instead of exercising a characteristic spiritual influence. And, as
for the Synagogue, it is the part of kindness or of guilt to be silent
touching its hardly sufficing influence in American Israel in the
creation of a distinctive spiritual atmosphere or the enhancement of
definite spiritual values.

With respect to the spirit of humility, I happened not long ago to
confer with two young men, one of whom is about to enter into the
ministry. When asked quite conventionally what it was that had moved
him to think of himself as especially fitted for the ministry, his
answer was: "I feel that I am a born leader of men." On the other
hand, I asked a young graduate of an American university who was about
to leave for Europe what was his life's purpose, and he answered: "To
serve in the foreign mission field." Is it not true that the youth who
felt that he was a born leader and sought a field in which he could
exercise the qualities of leadership lacked spirituality, was wholly
without humility, evidently did not have the faintest understanding of
the possibilities of service, and the other revealed the possession of
spiritual-mindedness, of humility and finally the spirit of service.

There is no more serious indictment to be framed against the family
than that it does little and often nothing to foster the social
spirit. The home is not often enough a school of applied social
ethics, and the home that is not is likely to witness such conflict as
arises out of revolt against the smugly self-centered and unsocialized
home on the part of those sons and daughters who have caught a gleam
of the social life. If we had or could share with our children the
spirit of service, would not great numbers of young people throughout
the land rise up, eager for service to Israel in the midst of its
terrible needs at home and abroad? Few were the well-circumstanced
youth in the course of the war, who gave themselves to service through
agencies classed as non-military, and fewer still such as volunteered
for service as relief workers in East-European lands at the close of
the war--again among the well-to-do. This is very largely a matter of
upbringing, of the ideals implanted by parents and teachers. What is
your son's ideal of living? Is it to serve or to be served? Do you try
hard enough to get out of your son's head the notion that being served
by butler and valet and chauffeur is the greatest thing in the world?
The greatest thing in the world is not being served but serving, to be
least served and most serviceable.

As Tolstoy put it, I believe shortly before his death, woman's bearing
and nursing and raising children will be useful to humanity only when
she raises up children not merely to seek pleasure but to be truly the
servants of mankind. The ultimate question underlying every other is,
what are you giving to the souls of your children? And the answer
is,--what you are. "In my dealing with my child, my Latin and Greek,
my accomplishments and my money, stead me nothing. They are all lost
on him: but as much soul as I have avails. If I am merely willful, he
gives me a Roland for an Oliver, sets his will against mine, one for
one, and leaves me, if I please, the degradation of beating him by my
superiority of strength. But if I renounce my will and act for the
soul, setting that up as umpire between us two, out of his young eyes
looks the same soul; he reveres and loves with me."[E]

Thus pleads Emerson in the name of the child's potential oversoul.
Not long ago, I made an attempt to interest a young woman of a
well-known family in social service. She shuddered as if some
verminous thing had been held up to her gaze. "Not for me that kind of
thing." You must teach your children the methods and the practice of
selfless service. If you do not, well, your children may rise up
against you or fall to your own level, or, worst of all, awaken and
discover what you are.



Every difference between parent and child is somehow assumed to be
rooted in and ascribable to the inherent perversities of the
parental-filial relation. When scrutinized, these will often be found
to be wholly unrelated thereto. Ever are parents and children ready to
take it for granted that their clashing arises out of the relation
between them when in truth, viewed dispassionately and from the
vantage-ground of remoteness, parent and child are not pitted against
each other at all. They are persons whose conflict has not the
remotest bearing upon the relation that obtains between them. Would
not much heartache be avoided, if parents and children clearly
understood that the grounds of difference between themselves, however
serious and far-reaching these sometimes become, are not related to or
connected with the special relation that holds them together?

Thus the irritations of propinquity may not be less irritating when
seen to arise out of the fact of physical contact rather than from the
circumstance of intellectual antagonism or moral repulsion, but it is
well to know that such irritations are not the skirmishes of life-long
domestic war. I say "irritations of propinquity," for, excepting among
the angels, the status of propinquity cannot be permanently maintained
without at least semi-occasional irritation. Professor R. B. Perry,[F]
dealing with domestic superstitions, declares, in reference to
scolding: "The family circle provides perpetual, inescapable, intimate
and unseasonable human contacts.... Individuals of the same species
are brought together in every permutation and combination of
conflicting interests and incompatible moods.... The intimacy and
close propinquity of the domestic drama exaggerates all its values,
both positive and negative."

Not only does the unavoidable persistence of physical contacts
account, however unprofoundly, for occasional differences in the home,
but another and parallel circumstance ought never to be lost sight
of. There are two samenesses in the home, the sameness of blood and
the sameness of contacts. Putting it differently, the oneness of
environment for all the tenants of a home continues and sometimes
intensifies the strain in either sense of blood-oneness. This may
sound playful to those who have never bethought themselves touching
the enormous difficulties that arise in the home insofar as some
parents, having inflicted a certain heredity upon their offspring, are
free to burden these filial victims with an environment escape from
which might alone enable them to neutralize or palliate the evil of
their heritage. I have in an earlier passage asked the query whether
filial revolt is not the unconscious protest of children against the
authors or transmitters of hereditary defect or taint.

Let me name two types or kinds of what are held to be conflicts
between parents and children, which are not conflicts in any real
sense of the term; first, intellectual differences and, second, the
inevitable but impersonal antagonism of the two viewpoints or
attitudes which front each other in the persons of parent and child.
As for purely intellectual differences, it is well to have in mind the
world's current and suggestive use of the term "difference of
opinion"--Carlyle saying of his talk with Sterling: "Except in opinion
not disagreeing"--as if that in itself were quite naturally the
precursor of strife and conflict. If difference of opinion oft deepen
into conflict, is it not because in the home as in the world without
we have not mastered the high art of patiently hearing another
opinion? Graham Wallas[G] would urge: "A code of manners which
combined tolerance and teachability in receiving the ideas of others,
with frankness and, if necessary courageous persistence in introducing
one's own ideas.... Whether we desire that our educational system
should be based on and should itself create a general idea of our
nation as consisting of identical human beings or of indifferent human
beings" is the problem with which Wallas[H] faces us.

In the world without men may flee from one another but the walls of
the home are more narrow. And within the home-walls, for reasons to be
set forth, the merest differences of opinion, however honestly
conceived and earnestly held, may be viewed as pride of ancient
opinion on the one hand and forwardness of youthful heresy on the
other. Parents are no more to be regarded as intolerably tyrannical
because of persistence in definite opinions than children are to be
viewed as totally depraved or curelessly dogmatic because of
unrelinquishing adherence to certain viewpoints. I am naturally
thinking of normal parents, if normal they be, who would rather be
right than prevail, not of such parents as imagine that they must
never yield even an opinion, nor yet of children surly and snarling
who do not know the difference between vulgar self-insistence and high
self-reverence. For the father a special problem arises out of the
truth that the mother presides over the home as far as children are
concerned and as long as they remain children, and he steps in to
"rule" ordinarily after having failed through non-contacts to have
established a relationship with children. This is the more
regrettable because often it becomes almost the most important
business of a father, through studied or feigned neglect, to
neutralize the over-zealous attention of a mother, such attention as
makes straight for over-conventionalization.

To regard differences of opinion as no more than differences of
opinion will always be impossible to parents and children alike until
these have learned how to lift these things to and keep them on an
impersonal level. And of one further truth, previously hinted at,
parents and children must become mindful,--that what, viewed
superficially and personally, is their clashing, is nothing more than
the wisdoms of the past meeting with the hopes of the future--past and
future embodied in declining parent and nascent child.

Because of their fuller years and the circumstance of protective
parenthood, parents are conservators, maintainers, perpetuators. Because
of their uninstructed years and freedom from responsibility, children
often become radical, uprooters and destroyers at the imperious behest
of the future. These impersonal clashings of past and future can be kept
on an impersonal basis, provided parents can bring themselves to see
that things are not right merely because they have been and that things
are not wrong solely because they have not been before.

Perhaps at this point, though parents have experience to guide them
and children only hopes to lead them, it is for parents to exercise
the larger patience with hope's recruits, even though these find light
and beauty alone in the rose tints of the future's dawn. Felix Adler
has wisely said: "A main cause is the presumption in favor of the
latest as the best, the newest as the truest.... The passion for the
recent reacts on the respect or the want of respect that is shown to
the older generation.... Now if one group of persons pulls in one
direction and another group pulls in exactly the opposite direction,
there is strain; and if the younger generation pulls with all its
might in the direction of changing things, and if the older generation
leans back as far as it can and stands for keeping things as they are,
then there is bound to be a tremendous tension."

It may be true, as has lately been suggested by the same wise teacher,
that the children of our time are in protest against parents, because
these are the authors and agents of the sadly blundering world by them
inherited. Is it not also true and by children to be had in mind that
parents are fearful of the ruthless urge and, as it seems, relentless
drive of the generation to be, which become articulate in the
impatiences of youth? Dealing with the difference that arises out of
the fact of parents facing pastward and children futureward, Professor
Perry declares[I]: "The domestic adult is in a sort of backwash. He is
looking toward the past, while the children are thinking the thoughts
and speaking the language of tomorrow. They are in closer touch with
reality, and cannot fail, however indulgent, to feel that their
parents are antiquated.... The children's end of the family is its
budding, forward-looking end: the adult's end is, at best, its root.
There is a profound law of life by which buds and roots grow in
opposite direction."

It were well for parents and in children to remember that past and
future meet in the contacts of their common present, and that these
conflict-provoking contacts are due neither to parental waywardness
nor to filial wilfulness. These are not unlike the seething waters of
Hell Gate, the tidal waters of river and sound, meeting and clashing,
and out of their meeting growing the eddies and whirlpools which have
suggested the name Hell Gate bears. Through these whirling waters
there runs a channel of safety, the security of the passerby depending
upon the unresting vigilance of the navigator. The whirl of the waters
is not less wild because the meeting is the meeting of two related
bodies, two arms of the self-same sea.



If it be true, as true it is, that many of the so-called wars are not
wars at all, there are on the other hand conflicts arising between
parents and children which cannot be averted, conflicts the
consequences of which must be frankly faced. To one of such conflicts
we have already alluded,--that which grows out of impatience with what
Emerson calls "otherness." But this, while not grave in origin, may
and ofttimes does develop into decisive and divisive difference.
"Difference of opinion" need not mar the peace of the parental-filial
relation, unless parents or children or both are bent upon achieving
sameness, even identity of opinion and judgment. It is here that
parents and children require to be shown that sameness is not oneness,
that, as has often been urged, uniformity is a shoddy substitute for
unity, and that it is the cheapest of personal chauvinisms to insist
upon undeviating likeness of opinion among the members of one's
household. For, when this end is reached, intellectual impoverishment
and sterility, bad enough in themselves in the absence of mental
stimulus and enrichment, are sure to breed dissension.

An explicable but none the less inexcusable passion on the part of
parents or children for sameness--a passion bred of intolerance and
unwillingness to suffer one's judgment to be searched--is fatally
provocative of conflict and clashing. Let parents seek to bring their
judgments to children but any attempt at intellectual coercion is a
species of enslavement. It may be good to persuade another of the
validity of one's judgments, but such persuasion on the part of
parents should be most reluctant lest children feel compelled to adopt
untested parental opinion, and the docility of filial agreement
finally result in intellectual dishonesty or aridity. Than this
nothing could be more ungenerous, utilizing the intimacies of the home
and the parental vantage-ground in the interest of enforcement of
one's own viewpoints. If I had a son, who, every time he opened his
mouth, should say, "Father, you are right," "Quite so, pater," "Daddy,
I am with you," I should be tempted to despise him. I would have my
son stand on his feet, not mine, nor any chance teacher's or boy
comrade's, or favorite author's, but his own, and see with his own
eyes and hear with his own ears, nerving me with occasional dissent
rather than unnerving me with ceaseless assent.

Children are equally unjustified in attempting to compel parental
adoption of filial views, but for many reasons it is much easier for
parents to withstand filial coercion than the reverse, and up to this
time the latter coercion has been rather rarer than the former. "The
idea of the unity of two lives for the sake of achieving through their
unsunderable union the unity of the children's lives with their own,"
citing the fine word of Felix Adler, is a very different thing,
however, from lowering the high standards of voluntary unity to the
level of compulsory uniformity.

Another cause of clashing may be briefly dealt with, for it is not
really clashing that it evokes. They alone can clash who are near to
one another, and I am thinking of an unbridgeable remoteness that
widens ever more once it obtains between parents and children. Not
clash but chasm, when parents and children find not so much that their
ideals are so pitted against one another as to occlude the hope of
harmonious adjustment, as that in the absence of ideals on one side or
the other there has come about an unbridgeable gap. Nothing quite so
tragic in the home as the two emptinesses or aridities side by side,
with all the poor, mean, morally sordid consequences that are bound to
ensue! And the tragedy of inward separation or alienation is
heightened rather than lessened by the circumstance that the bond of
physical contact persists for the most part unchanged.

Really serious clashing often grows out of the question of callings
and the filial choice thereof. It is quite comprehensible that parents
should find it difficult not to intervene when children, without
giving proper and adequate thought, are about to choose a calling
unfitting in itself or one to which they are unadapted. But here we
deal with a variant of the insistence that parental experience shall
avert filial mischance or hurt. And here I must again insist that
children have just the same right to make mistakes that we have
exercised. They may not make quite as many as we made. It does not
seem possible that they could. But, in any event, they have the right
to make for that wisdom which comes of living amid toil and weariness
and agony and all the never wholly hopeless blundering of life.

Upon parents may lie the duty to offer guidance, but compulsion is
always unavailing and when availing leaves embitterment behind. It is
woeful to watch a child mar its life but forcible intervention rarely
serves to avert the calamity. One is tempted to counsel parents to
consider thrice before they urge a particular calling upon a child. I
have seen some young and promising lives wrecked by parental
insistence that one or another calling be adopted. That a father is in
a calling or occupation is a quite insufficient reason for a son being
constrained to make it his own. A man or woman in the last analysis
has the right of choice in the matter of calling, and parents have no
more right to choose a calling than to choose a wife or husband for a
son or daughter.

A most fertile cause of conflict is at hand in the normal
determination of parents to transmit the faith of the fathers to the
children. The conflict is often embittered after the fashion of
religious controversy, when parents are inflexibly loyal to their
faith, passionately keen to share their precious heritage with the
children, while children grow increasingly resolved to think their own
and not their fathers' thoughts after God. It is easier to commend
than to practice the art of patience with the heretical child, and yet
our age is mastering that art,--the cynic would aver because of
wide-spread indifference. Surely there can be no sorrier coercion than
that which insists upon filial acquiescence in the religious dogmas
held by parents, not less sorry because the parents may be merely
renewing the coercive traditions of their own youth.

It is a hurt alike to children and to truth, to say nothing of the
institutions of religion, to command faith the essence and beauty of
which lies in its voluntariness. But if parents are not free to
coerce the minds of their children touching articles of faith, it is
for children to remember what was said of Emerson,--that "he was an
iconoclast without a hammer, removing our idols so gently it seemed
like an act of worship." The dissenter need not be a vandal and the
filial dissenter ought to be farthest from the vandal in manner
touching the religious beliefs of parents. I would not carry the
reverent manner to the point of outward conformity, but it may go far
without doing hurt to the soul of a child, provided the spiritual
reservations are kept clear.



The conflict of today is oftenest one between parental orthodoxy and
filial liberalism or heresy. My own experience has led to the
conviction that the clashing does not ordinarily arise between two
varying faiths but rather between faith on the one hand and unfaith or
unconcern with faith on the other. As for the Jewish home, the problem
is complicated by reason of the truth, somehow ignored by Jew and
non-Jew, that the religious conversion of a Jew usually leads to
racial desertion as far as such a thing can be save in intent. In the
Jewish home, racial loyalty and religious assent are so inextricably
interwoven,--with ethical integrity in many cases in the
balance,--that it is not to be wondered at that conflict oft obtains
when the loyalty of the elders is met by the dissidence of the younger
and such dissidence is usually the first step on the way that leads
to a break with the Jewish past.

And the battle, generally speaking, is not waged by parents on behalf
of the child's soul nor yet in the interest of imperilled Israel, but
in the dread of the hurt that is sure to be visited upon the guilt of
disloyalty to a heritage cherished and safeguarded through centuries
of glorious scorn of consequences. I should be grieved if a child were
to say to me: "I cannot repeat the ancient Shema Yisrael, the
watchword of the Jew: I find it necessary to reject the foundations of
the Jewish faith." My heart, I say, would be sad, but I would not
dream of attempting to coerce the mind of a child. I would look with
horror and with heartbreak upon the act of a child, who under one
pretext or another took itself out of the Jewish bond and away from
Jewish life. If, I repeat, a child of mine were to say "I can have
nothing to do with Israel," I would sorrow over that child as lost
because I should know that its repudiation of the household of Israel
was rooted in selfishness colored by self-protective baseness. But,
let me again make clear, if a child should say "I cannot truly affirm
God or His unity," I could not decently object, however harassed and
unhappy I might feel. I could not tolerate the vileness of racial
cowardice and desertion in a child, but I would have no right to break
with it because of religious dissent.

One of the conflicts irrepressible arises when there comes to be a
deep gulf fixed between the standards of parents and children, so deep
as to make harmonious living impossible. Though it seem by way of
excuse for children, it must be admitted that parental guidance is
ofttimes woefully lacking, when suddenly falls some edict or interdict
arbitrarily and unexpectedly imposed for which there has been no
preparation whatsoever. It may be torturing for parents to face the
facts, but they have no right to refuse to reap what they have sown,
to accept the wholly unavoidable consequences of the training of their
children. Parents who ask nothing of children for the first twenty
years may not suddenly turn about and ask everything. You cannot until
your child is twenty give all and after twenty forgive nothing.
Parents may not be idiotically doting for twenty years and then
suddenly become austerely exacting. I have seen parents, who accept a
young son's indolence, luxuriousness and dissipation of mind and body
as quite the correct thing for youth, later yield to regret over the
mental enervation and moral flabbiness of these sons.

A mother came to me not very long ago in tears over her son who had
married a poor wanton creature. What I could no more than vaguely hint
to the mother was that she had in some part prepared her son for the
moral catastrophe by attiring herself after the manner of a woman of the
streets. The household that exposes a son to the necessity of living
daily by the side of poor imitations of the street-woman will find his
ideals of womanhood sadly undermined in the end. The mother who does not
offer a son a glimpse of something of dignity and fineness in her own
life, alike in matter and manner, may expect little of her son.
Standards at best must be cultivated and illustrated through the years
of permeable childhood and cannot be improvised and insisted upon
whenever in parental judgment it may become necessary.

There is little to choose between the tragedy of parental rejection of
children's standards and filial abhorrence of the standards of
parents. And both types of tragedy occur from time to time. Sometimes
conflict is well, not conflict in the sense of ceaseless clashing but
as frank and undisguised acceptance of the fact of irreconcilably
discrepant standards. Better some wars than some peace! There are
times when parents and children should conflict with one another, when
approval is invited or tolerance expected of the intolerable and
abhorrent, whether in the case of an unworthy daughter or a viciously
dissolute son. I make the proviso that such conflict, decisive and
final, can be as far as parents are concerned without the abandonment
of love for the erring daughter or wayward son.

Severer, if anything, the conflict becomes when it is children who are
bidden to endure and embrace what they conceive to be the lower
standards of parents. The clashing may not be less serious because
inward and voiceless rather than outward and vocal. If parents feel
free to reprove children, it behooves them to have in mind that
children are and of right ought to be free to disapprove of parents,
though the conventions seem to forbid children to utter such
disapproval. Outward assent may cover up the most violent disapproval,
and parenthood should hardly be offered up in mitigation or
extenuation any more than the status of orphanhood should shield the
parricide or matricide. And it cannot be made too clear, children have
the right to reject for themselves the lower standards of parents.

Before me has come from time to time the question whether it is the
business of a daughter to yield obedience to a mother who would inflict
low and degrading standards upon her child. Or the question is put thus:
what would you say to a son, who refuses to enter into and have part in
the business of his father which he believes to be unethical, though the
father and the rest of the world view it as wholly normal and
legitimate? I may not find it in me to urge a child not to obey a
parent, neither would I bid a son or daughter waive the scruples of
conscience in order to please a parent. Times and occasions there are, I
believe, when a child is justified in saying to parents in the terms of
finest gentleness and courtesy--the filial _fortiter in re_ must above
all else be _suaviter in modo_--it is not you whom I disobey, because I
must obey a law higher than that which parents can impose upon me. I
must obey the highest moral law of my own being.

But this decision is always a grave one and must be arrived at in the
spirit of earnestness and humility, never in the mood of defiance.
Whether or not this entail the necessity of physical separation is less
important than that it be clearly understood that there is a higher law
even than parental mandate or filial whim, that parents and child alike
do well to understand. Parents dare not fail to act upon the truth that,
if intellectual coercion be bad, the unuttered and unexercised
compulsions toward a lower moral standard are infinitely worse. A child
may not forget that, when parental dictate is repudiated in favor of a
higher law, it must in truth be a higher law which exacts obedience. And
even peace must be sacrificed when the higher law summons.



The parental-filial relation is almost the only institution of society
that has not consciously come under the sway of the democratic regime
or rather influences. Within a century, the world has passed from the
imperial to the monarchical and from the monarchical to the democratic
order--save in two rather important fields of life, industry and the
home. In these two realms the transformation to the democratic modus
remains to be effected,--I mean of course the conscious, however
reluctant, acceptance thereof. True it is that many children and fewer
parents have made and will continue to make it for themselves, but the
process is one which the concerted thought and co-operative action of
parents and children can far better bring to consummation. The
difficulty of the transformation is increased almost indefinitely by
the microscopic character of the family unit. It is not easy to keep
the open processes of the State up to the standards of democracy,--how
much more difficult the covert content of the inaccessible home!

In all that parents do with respect to the home, assuming their
acceptance of the democratic order and its requirements, they may not
forget that the home, like every educational agency of our time, must
"train the man and the citizen." Milton's insistence is not less
binding today than it was when first uttered nearly three centuries
ago. A man cannot be half slave and half free. He cannot be fettered
by an autocratic regime within the home and at the same time be a free
and effective partner in the working out of the processes of
democracy. Democracy and discipline are never contradictory and the
discipline of democracy can alone be self-discipline. Professor Patten
in his volume, "Product and Climax,"[J] hints at a real difficulty:
"We want our children to retain the plasticity of youth, and yet we
believe in a disciplinary education and love to put them at difficult
tasks, having no end but rigidity of action and a narrower viewpoint.
At the same breath we ask for heroes and demand more democracy."

What is really involved when the matter is reduced to its simplest
terms, is seen to be a new conception of the home. For many centuries,
it has been a world or realm wherein parents filled a number of roles
or parts,--chief among these regents on thrones, dispensers of bounty,
teachers of the infant mind. Any survey of the home today that surveys
more than surface things must take into account one other figure,--or
set of figures,--the figure of a child. And the child not as the
subject of the parental regent, however wise, nor yet as the
unquestioning pupil of the parental tutor, however infallible! The
home can no longer remain, amid the crescent sway of the democratic
ideal, a kingdom with one or two or even more thrones, nor yet a
debating society. Shall we say parliament, seeing that in Parliament
and Congress it is reputed to be the habit of men to plead for truth
rather than for victory?

The home must become a school wherein parents and children alike sit
as eager learners and humble teachers, a school for parents in the
latter days in the arts of renunciation and for children in the fine
arts of outward courtesy and inward chivalry. In such a classroom the
child will learn to think non-filially for itself, though it will not
cease to feel filially. Under such auspices, the child will be neither
a manageable nor an unmanageable thing but a person bent upon
self-direction and self-determination through the arts of
self-discipline. In the interest of that self-discipline which
parental example can do most to foster, let it be remembered by
parents that no rule is as effective with children as self-mastery,
that the only convincing and irrefutable authority is inner
authoritativeness. Spencer has laid down the ideal for the home: "to
produce a self-governing being; not to produce a being to be governed
by others." If parents are so unwise as to postpone and deny the right
of children to live their lives until after their parents are dead, it
may be that these will die too late for their own comfort. Parents who
rely upon parental authority, whatever that may mean, in dealing with
children ought to be quietly chloroformed or peacefully deposited in
the Museum of Natural History by the side of the almost equally
antique Diplodoccus.

The teacherless classroom, the school which is without direction and
without dogma _ex cathedra_, is a peculiarly fitting metaphor to
invoke. It may serve to remind children that the newly achieved
equivalence of the home is not to result in parental subjection or
subordination, that the inviolable rights of personality are not
exactly a filial monopoly,--crescent filial tyranny being little less
intolerable than obsolescent parental despotism--that the passing of
the years does not make it exactly easier to abandon or to forswear
personality. It were little gain to substitute King Log of filial rule
for King Stork of parental command. Filial domination, in other words,
is not less odious because of its novelty. In a recent number of _The
Outlook_, E. M. Place, writing on "Democracy in the Home," puts it
well: "There are two kinds of despotism in the home that are alike and
equally intolerable: One is parental and the other is filial."

Bernard Shaw[K] is quite unparadoxical and almost commonplace in his
fear that there is a possibility of home life oppressing its inmates.
The peril is not of revolt against the oppressions of home life by its
inmates but of unrevolting submission which were far worse on their
part. From such oppressions there is but one escape, the deliberate
introduction of a democratic regime. "It is admitted that a democracy
develops and trains the individual while an autocracy dwarfs and
represses the possibilities within. The parent who is autocratic, who
says do this and do that because I say so without appealing to the
reason and judgment of the child, can never create the real home, the
one in which good citizens are made. The democratic home where the
individual welfare and the general welfare are given due
consideration, where conduct is the result of the appeal to reason, is
as much the right of the child as a voice in his own government is the
right of an adult."

And one thing more! Some marriages are intolerable and the only way of
peace, not of cowardice or of evasion, is the way out. Without at
this time entering into the question whether the multiplicity of
divorces is imperilling the social order, I make bold to say that it
ought not be considered an enormity on the part of children nor an
indictment of parents, if parents and adult children conclude to live
apart, unharassed and untortured by the conditions of propinquity.
Fewer children would enter into obviously fatal marriages if marriage
were not regarded as the only decent and respectable way out of the
home for a daughter. Who does not know of young people marrying in
order to escape from the home? I do not mean to imply that all young
people who desire to escape from the home are the victims of domestic
repression and parental tyranny, but I have often deemed it lamentable
that, for some young people as I have known them, marriage offered the
only excuse or pretext for taking oneself out of the home. Such
self-exile from home by the avenue of marriage often leads to tragedy
graver than any from which it was sought to take refuge. But a
democratic regime in the home must include the possibility of
honorable and peaceable withdrawal therefrom.

It should be said by way of parenthesis that marriage is not always a
secure refuge from the undemocratically ordered home. For parental
intervention in the life of married children is not unimaginable.
Under my observation there came some months ago the story of parents,
who quite forcibly withdrew the person of their daughter and her
infant child from her and her husband's home because the latter was
unwilling or unable to expend a grotesquely large sum for its
maintenance. This is merely an exaggerated example of the insistence
on the part of parents on the unlessened exercise of that power of
control over children, which is the very negation of democracy.



Reverence thy son and thy daughter lest thy days seem too long in the
land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. One of the elements making
for conflict between parent and child is the desire of parents who ask
for love, taking respect for granted, and the insistence of children,
taking love for granted, that parental respect be yielded them. There
are many causes that make mutual respect in any real sense difficult
between parent and child, parents asking love for themselves as
parents, children seeking respect for themselves as persons. After
dealing for two decades or nearly that with a child in the terms of
love, parents do not find it easy to treat a child with the reverence
that is offered to one deemed a complete, rational, unchildlike person.

An eminent theologian once declared that it was easy enough to love
one's neighbors but hard to like them. So might many parents in truth
say that it is easy, yea, inevitable, to love their children but very
difficult to yield them the reverence of which upon reflection they
are found to be deserving. And it happens that parents can and do give
their children all but the one thing which they insist upon having
from parents, namely, a decent respect. Such respect is in truth
impossible as long as parents always think of themselves as parents
and of children as children. The temptation presses to urge parents
sometimes to forget that they are parents, and to suggest to children
sometimes to remember that they are children--in any event,
semi-occasionally to recall that to parents children are ever and
quite explicably children.

Parents cannot begin too soon to treat children with respect. One of
the most disrespectful as well as stupid things that can be done in
relation to a child is to treat it like a monkey trained for
exhibition purposes in order to "entertain" some resident aunt or
visiting uncle. The worst way to prepare a child for self-respect is
to exhibit him to ostensibly admiring relatives as if he or she were
a rare specimen in a zoölogical garden. Too many of us are Hagenbacks
to our children, not so much for the sake of otherwise unoccupied
relatives or especially doting grandparents as for the sake of
flattering our own cheap and imbecile pride.

The relation of mutual respect cannot obtain between parent and child
as long as the instinct of parental proprietorship is dominant, as
long as there is a failure to recognize that a child's individuality
must be reckoned with. But there must be the underlying assumption
that a child's judgment may be entitled to respect, in other words, is
not inherently contemptible. Once assumed that a child may cease to be
a child and become a person able to think, decide, choose, act for
itself, there is no insuperable difficulty in determining when a
child's judgment is entitled to respect, provided of course by way of
preliminary that parents are ready to put away the pet superstition of
parental infallibility and impeccability. Nothing so calculated to win
a child's reverence as parental admission of fallibility generally and
of some error of thought and speech in particular!

One rarely hears or learns of a child who feels that parents fail to
love it but one comes upon children not a few, normal beings rather than
those afflicted with the persecution complex, who deeply lament the fact
that parents do not treat them with the reverence owing from normal,
wholesome beings to one another. It is this that more than anything else
makes some children impatient of the very name, children, the term with
its ceaseless implication of relative existence becoming odious to them.
No one will maintain that it is easy to achieve relations of reciprocal
reverence between parent and child, viewing the fact that family
intimacies while tending to foster affection do not make for the
strengthening of respect. For respect is most frequently evoked by the
unknown and unfamiliar even as the familiar and the known, because it is
known, touches the springs of affection. Parental reverence may not be
unachievable, but it involves the acceptance of a child as a
self-existent being, intellectually, morally, spiritually.

One of the results of the liberating processes of our age is the
deeping consciousness of children that they have the unchallengeable
right to live their own lives, under freedom to develop their own
personalities. Revolting against the superimposition of parental
personality, the more deadening because childhood is imitative, they
have begun to hearken to Emerson's counsel to insist upon themselves.
Too often they carry their fidelity to this monition to the
illegitimate length of insistence upon idiosyncracy rather than of
emphasis upon personality. To cherish and defend every fleeting
opinion as sacred and unamendable dogma is not insistence upon self
but wilful pride of opinion. And yet even such self-insistence is
better than such self-surrender as dwarfs children and by so much
belittles parents.

It may seem superfluous to second the claim of children to
self-determination, but in truth parents have so long and so
crushingly overwhelmed their once-defenceless children with the _force
majeure_ of their own personality that even a parent may welcome the
long-deferred revolt making for self-determination. The child has
rightfully resolved not to be a perfect replica,--usually a duplicate
of manifold imperfections,--but to be itself with all its own
imperfections on its head. This is the answer to the question whether
children ought ever suffer their minds to be coerced. Intellectual
compulsion and spiritual coercion are always inexcusable, though in
the interest of that much-abused term, the higher morality, children
may resort to the accommodation of conformity without sacrifice of the
substance of individuality and its basic self-respect.

And when I venture to hint at the concession of outward conformity
without of course doing violence to the scruples of conscience, the
concession that will bid children to tread the pathway of conformity in
externals, I call to mind and to witness a quarter-century's experience
in the ministry. In the course of it, it has fallen to my lot to be
consulted by numerous children. In only one case has a child said to me,
I regret my obedience to my parents' will. But times without number have
children said to me, How I rejoice, though sometimes it seemed hard,
that I followed the counsel of my mother, that I yielded to my father's
will. But one may not bid parents reverence their children and respect
their sense of freedom without intimating to children, howsoever
reluctantly, that even parents have some inalienable rights, and that
children ought to accord some freedom to parents, even though these be
likely to abuse it. Parents, too, must be regarded as free agents.
Filial usurpation of parental freedom is not wholly unprecedented in
these days of reappraisal of most values.

Parents and children alike will be helped to reverence one another as
free agents when they learn that infringement upon the freedom of
another is for the most part such an obtrusion of self into the life
of another as grows out of the contentlessness of one's own life. No
man or woman whose life is full and worth-while has enough of spare
time and strength to find it possible to meddle in busy-bodying
fashion with the life of others. Nagging, no matter by whom, is just
domestic busy-bodying, growing out of the failure to respect the
personality of another and out of the vacuity of one's own life.
Nagging, however ceaseless, is not correction. Conflict must not be
confounded with scolding any more than love and petting are the same
thing. Scolding, nagging, ceaseless fault-finding, these are not
conflicts nor even the symptoms thereof. These are usually nothing
more than signs of inner conflict and unrest finding petty and
unavailing, because external, outlets. No home irrespective of
circumstance can be free from conflict in which there is a failure to
understand that every member of the household is a self-regarding and
inviolate personality and that the physical contacts of the family
life are no excuse for the ceaseless invasion of personality.

I have not said economically, though it is not always easy for parents
to remember that economic dependence in no wise involves intellectual,
moral, spiritual dependence. The difficulty, as has already been
pointed out, is greatly enhanced by reason of the fact that parents
and children are too apt to label and classify and pigeon-hole one
another, parents assumed to be visionless maintainers and conservators
of the status quo and children regarded as vandal disturbers of the
best possible of worlds.

To confound voluntary reverence with the obligations of gratitude is
indeed the woefullest of blunders. I have sometimes thought that the
parental-filial relationship is not infrequently strained because it
rests upon bounty or indebtedness, acknowledged or unacknowledged.
There is a strain which ofttimes proves too hard to be borne between
benefactor and beneficiary. This strain may be eased if parents will
but avoid thinking of themselves as benefactors and children will but
remember that the fact of adolescence or post-adolescence does not
cancel all the relationships and conditions of earlier life. I cannot
conceive of deeper unwisdom than to rest one's case with children in
the matter of unyielded obedience or ungranted reverence or aught else
upon the basis of gratitude. It is as futile as it is vicious to dream
of exacting gratitude, seeing that gratitude is not a debt to be paid,
least of all a toll to be levied. Is there really much to choose
between the parent plaintively appealing for filial gratitude and the
termagant wife insistently clamoring for love.

If parents bent upon having gratitude and appreciation would but
remember that during the years in which parents do most for their
children the latter are blissfully unconscious, it would help them
over the rough places of seeming inappreciation and ingratitude. The
first ten years of a child's life are those of most constant and
tender service on the part of parents, the period of deepest anxieties
and uttermost sacrifices. And yet the fact of infancy and early
childhood precludes the possibility of remembrance, understanding,
appreciation. The conscious relation of parent and child does not
really begin much before the tenth year.

A wise teacher of the Northwest once said: "Children are either too
young or too old to be physically punished." Something of the same
kind might be said with respect to appeals for gratitude. Either these
are unnecessary or else they are unavailing. In any event, the
relation between parent and child must never be brought down to the
level of one of bestowal and acceptance of bounty and the obligations
thereby entailed. The highest magnanimity is needed on the part of
parents, so deep and uncancellable is the debt of children,--by
parents to be obliterated from memory, by children to be translated
into the things of life.



The undemocratic character of the home reveals itself in a way that is
familiar enough,--the way of parental possession. Nothing could be
more difficult for parents to abandon than the sense of ownership,
tenderly conceived and graciously fostered. And yet, hard as the
lesson may be, it must be learned by parents that the spirit of
proprietorship cannot coexist with the democratic temper in the home.

I sometimes regret that children are not born full-grown, that they do
not subsequently develop or devolve into babies, so that the earliest
aspect of a child, diminutive, helpless, should not, as it does, evoke
the sense of absolute and exclusive ownership. If children would only
at six months or a year begin to argue, vigorously to combat their
parents' views, the ordinary transition from bland acquiescence to
over-facile dissent would be somewhat less harsh and startling. The
thing, which perhaps does most to intensify the shock and pain
incidental to divergence of opinion, is that the first eight or ten
years of childhood give no intimation or little more than intimation
of the possibility of conflict in later years. The unresisting
acquiescence of children in never-ending bestowal of parental bounty
offers no hint of the possibility of future strife. The legal plea of
surprise might almost be offered up by parents, who find, as one of
them has expressed it, that, when children are young, they "stay put,"
can be found whenever sought. Later they neither stay nor are put, but
move tangentially and, it would seem by preference, into orbits of
their own,--and not always heavenly orbits.

Some parents never wean themselves nor even seek to do so from the
sense of proprietorship, which is sure to be rudely disturbed unless
parents are wise to yield it up. No grown, reasoning, self-respecting
person wishes to be or to be dealt with as a being in fief to another.
Ofttimes it proves exceedingly hard for fond parents to relinquish the
sense of ownership, for the latter is deeply satisfying and even
flattering to the owner. In very truth, parents must come to
understand that children are not born to them as possessions. The
parental part does not confer ownership rights. Children should not be
regarded and cherished as a life-long possession nor even for a time.
They are entrusted by the processes of birth and the decree of fate to
parents, to be cared for during the days of dependence, to be nurtured
and developed till maturity, the latter to mark the ending of the
period of conscious parental responsibility.

As long as children have not reached adolescence and the consciousness
thereof, they may endure nor even note the mood of parental
possession. But once complete self-consciousness dawns, the sense of
ownership becomes intolerable to any child that is more than a
domestic automaton, and, if persisted in, makes any wholesomeness of
relation between parent and child unthinkable. Many years ago, a sage
friend tendered me some unforgettable counsel. I had, perhaps
unwisely, commiserated with him upon the fact that his lovely
children, sons and daughters alike, were leaving the parental roof
and beginning their lives anew in different and remote parts of the
land. His answer rang prompt and decisive: "Children were not given to
us to keep. They are placed with us for a time in trusteeship and now
that they are old enough to leave us and to stand upon their own feet,
it is well for them to make their own homes and become the builders of
their own lives." This sage and his like-minded wife had achieved the
art of dispossessing themselves of their children, or rather they had
never suffered themselves to tread the pathway of possession.

To a rational adult the sense of possession by another is irksome,
save in the case of youthful lovers whose irrationality may for a time
take the form of pleasure in the fact of possession by another. But
when sanity enters into the joy of the love-relation, then the sense
of ecstasy in being possessed vanishes and with its passing comes a
renewal of self-possession which alone is complete sanity.
Self-possession brooks no invasion or possession of personality by
another. The matter of possession becomes gravely disturbing because
the parental tendency in the direction of proprietorship becomes
keenest at a time when children are least disposed to be possessed in
any way. As children near adulthood, they desire to be autonomous
persons rather than things or possessions. Then the conflict comes,
and, though not consciously, is fought for and against possession.

Briefly, adolescence brings with it an insistence upon the end of the
relative and the beginning of absolute, that is unrelated, existence.
Somehow and for the most part unhappily, the child's insistence upon
absolute self-possession and self-existence comes at a time,--it may
be evocative rather than synchronous--when parents most desire or feel
the need to be parents. This craving for a maximum of parenthood, not
in the interest of filial possession, is evoked by the normal,
adolescent child, as it begins to find its main interests and
absorptions outside of the home, with the consequent loosening of what
seemed to be irrefragably close and intimate ties. And the parental
sense of proprietary supervision is not lessened by the circumstance
that the child now faces those problems the rightful solution of
which means so much to its future.

Thus does the conflict arise. Children, though they know it not or know
it only in part, face the great tests and challenges of life, rejoicing
that these are to be their experiences, their problems, their tests.
Parents view these self-same challenges and are deeply concerned lest
these prove too much for children and leave them broken and blighted
upon life's way. It is really fairer to say that what is viewed as the
parental instinct of possession is really nothing more than the
eagerness of parents somehow to bestow upon children the unearned fruits
of experience. It is the primary and inalienable right of children to
blunder, to falter upon the altar-steps, and blundering is a teacher
wiser though costlier than parents. Reckoning and rueing the price they
have paid for the lessons of experience, parents, whose good-will is
greater than their wisdom, insist upon the right to transmit to children
through teaching these lessons of experience. But they fail to realize
that certain things are unteachable and intransmissible.

Confounding the classroom with the school of life, it is assumed that
certain truths are orally teachable. Children, building better than
they know, insist that the wisdom of experience cannot be orally
communicated, that it is not to be acquired through parental bestowal
or teaching or insistence, but solely through personal effort, and,
though at first they know it not, through hardship and suffering.
Wisdom cannot be imparted to children by parents under an anaesthesia
that averts pain and suffering. Hard is it for parents to accept the
truth pointed out by Coleridge that experience is only a lamp in a
vessel's stern, which throws a light on the waters we have passed
through, none on those which lie before us.

The conflict then is between children who insist upon the privilege of
acquiring the wisdom of life through personal experience which includes
blundering and suffering, and parents whose sense of possession
strengthens their native resolution to bring to loved children all the
benefits and gains of life's experiences without permitting children to
pay the price which life exacts. And parents, in the unreasoning
passion to ward off hurt and wound from the heads of children, forget
that if the wisdom of experience were transmissible we should have moral
stagnation and spiritual immobility in the midst of life.

But if parents may not expect to be able to transmit the body of their
life-experience to children, neither should children assume that the
multiplication table is an untested hypothesis because accepted by
parents, or that elementary truths are wholly dubious because parental
assent has been given thereto. If parents must learn that children
cannot be expected to regard every thesis as valid solely because held
by parents, children need hardly take it for granted, though it may of
course be found to be true, that the parental viewpoint is uniformly
erring and invalid.

If parents, who are tempted to yield to the instinct of proprietorship
rather, as we have seen, than of domination, would but understand, as
was lately suggested in a psychological analysis of Barrie's "Mary
Rose," that there are women who mother the members of their circles so
persistently that they impose a certain childishness on them, the
mother's influence often producing incompetence and timidity! To such
parents, however, as will not admit the fact of possession, it remains
to be pointed out that parents do not live forever and are usually
survived by their children. The "owned" child is not unlikely with the
years to become and to remain a poor, miserable dependent
intellectually and spiritually, once its parents are gone.

View another case, the marriage of the "owned" child, even when it
does not accept any marriage that offers as a mode of release from
parental bondage. I have had frequent occasion to note that the
"owned" child, freed from parental suppression, is often revenged upon
parental tyranny by an era of luxurious despotism, or, what is worse,
renews the reign of ownership and dependence by becoming the "owned"
wife or undisowned husband, a sorry, beggarly serf, whose lifelong
dependence in the worst sense is largely the sequel to parental
proprietorship or overlordship. The parental tyranny that is
well-meant and gentle yields place in marriage to a tyranny that is
most untender and may even be brutal, its victim, male or female,
habituated by parental usage to the art of unrevolting submission, or,
when not thus habituated, goaded to a vindictive and compensatory
sense of mastery.

To urge parents to relinquish the sense of possession, to prepare them
for the day when they shall find it inevitable to "give up," is to do
them a real service. Let them prepare with something of fortitude for
the day that comes to many parents, which is to establish and confirm
the fact of parental dispensableness. The fortitude may have to be
Spartan in character. It is our fate, and parents, who are practised
in the art of long-suffering endurance, must learn to bear this last
test of strength with undimmable courage and even to rejoice therein.



There is a further problem over and beyond all those heretofore set
forth,--the problem, which might be described under the term, the
complication of relatives, the problem, shall we call it, of help or
hindrance from family members, who, asked or unasked and usually
unasked, undertake to act as vice-parents prior to the resignation or
decease of parents. The relationship is not ordinarily one of
reciprocity, for, however great be the help or hurt that can be done
to a child by an intervening kinsman or kinswoman, the relation of the
child to him or her does not as a rule root very deep in the life of
the younger person.

One thing parents may ask, though usually they do not: one thing
children ought to ask, though usually they would not; namely, that
when relatives touch the life of parent and child,--as they not
infrequently do,--they shall exert their influence on behalf of
understanding between parent and child. I have seen much done to wreck
the home by those who forget that the parental-filial relation is a
sanctuary not lightly to be trespassed upon even by those who
physically dwell in close proximity thereto.

One of the commonest forms of pernicious intervention is the attempt
to mitigate parental severity, to soften parental asperity, on the
part of nice, soft, respectable kinsmen and kinswomen, who regard a
child under twenty years or even under twenty-five in some cases as a
little lap-dog to be caressed and fondled, but in no wise to be dealt
with as a human to whom much may be given and from whom more must be
asked. Parents' standards may seem, and even be, exigent, but the
attempt to modify their rigor may not be made by those lacking in
fundamental reverence for a child, and in conscious hope for its wise,
noble, self-reliant maturity.

The kind uncle and the indulgent aunt have no right under heaven to
wreak their unreasoning tenderness upon niece or nephew in such
fashion as to make any and every standard seem cruelly exigent to
the child. Parents are not uniformly, though oft approximately,
infallible, and family members have the right and duty to take counsel
with, which always means to give counsel, to parents but not in the
presence of children. I have seen children moved to distrust of
parental mandate and judgment even when these were wise and just by
reason of the malsuggestion oozing forth from relatives, the zeal of
whose intervention is normally in inverse proportion to the measure of
their wisdom. Childish rebellion against parental guidance, however
enlightened, oft dates from the time of some avuncular remonstrance
against or antique impatience with parents "who do not understand the
dear child." But there is another and a better way, and kinsfolk can
frequently find it within the range of their power to supplement
parental teaching in ways that shall be profitable alike to child and

The nearest, the most constant impact upon the child is that of the
mother, and less often of the father. The mountain summit to which
greatness ascends in the sight of multitudes is often nothing more
than some height, reached in loneliness and out of the sight of the
world by a brave, mother-soul, wrestling through unseen and unaided
struggle for that, which shall later be disclosed to the world as the
immortal achievement of a child and so acclaimed by the plaudits of
the world. One remembers, for example, that the mother of William
Lloyd Garrison wrote of her colored nurse during her illness: "A slave
in the sight of man, but a freeborn soul in the sight of God." Thus is
she revealed as the mother of the Abolition struggle.

Professor Brumbaugh,[L] who ceased for a time to be a good teacher in
order to be an indifferent Governor of his Commonwealth, tells the
story of Pestalozzi taken by his grandfather to the homes of the poor,
the child saying: "When I am a man, I mean to take the side of the
poor." "He lived like a beggar that he might teach beggars to live
like men." Truly one must find the mother behind or rather before the
man. The mother of Emerson is thus described by his son[M]: "To a
woman of her stamp, provision for her sons meant far more than mere
food, raiment and shelter. Their souls first, their minds next, their
bodies last; this was the order in which their claims presented
themselves to the brave mother's mind. Lastly in those days the body
had to look after itself very much; more reverently they put it, the
Lord will provide." After his first week of Harvard life, Mrs. Emerson
wrote to her son[N]: "What most excites my solicitude is your moral
improvement and your progress in virtue. Let your whole life reflect
honor on the name you bear." Curious from the viewpoint of modern
practice that nothing was said about the weekly or fortnightly hamper
of goodies or the cushions shortly to follow,--to say nothing of the
ceaselessly entreated remittance!

The influence of a father upon his son comes to light as one reads Dr.
Emerson's life of his father: "In view of the son's shrinking from all
attempts to wall in the living truth with forms, his father's early
wish and hope, while still in Harvard, of moving to Washington and
there founding a church without written expression of faith or
covenant, is worthy of note." One comes to see that a man is what he
is because of the love he bears his mother, as one reads of Commodore
Perkins[O] that on the eve of the Battle of Mobile Bay he wrote to
her: "I know that I shall not disgrace myself no matter how hot the
fighting may be, for I shall think of you all the time." Thomas
Wentworth Higginson[P] tells that his own strongest impulse in the
direction of anti-slavery reform came from his mother. Being once
driven from place to place by an intelligent negro driver, my mother
said to him that she thought him very well situated after all; on
which he turned and looked at her, simply saying: "Ah, Missus, free
breath is good." Respecting his arrest later in connection with John
Brown and Harper's Ferry, Higginson writes[Q]: "Fortunately it did not
disturb my courageous mother, who wrote: 'I assure you it does not
trouble me, though I dare say that some of my friends are
commiserating me for having a son riotously and routously engaged.'"

Again and again, we look back and find that the great deed or noble
utterance of some historic figure is merely the echo of an earlier
word or deed of a forbear. We have seen it in the influences that
shaped or in any event steered Garrison, Mazzini, Pestalozzi. Former
President Tucker[R] of Dartmouth College declares that the memorable
speech of the Defender of the Constitution is to be explained not by
his own greatness. His father had made it before him.... This speech
was in his blood. The fact is that the great address of the Defender
of the Constitution was made by his father fifty years earlier when
Colonel Webster moved New Hampshire to enter the Union." The
grandfather of Theodore Parker was the minister of Concord at the time
of the Concord fight and on the Sunday previous he had preached on the
text: "Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."

That a kinsman or kinswoman may equal, even surpass, a parent in
influence wide and deep upon a child might be variously illustrated.
No more familiar illustration obtains than that of Mary Moody, aunt
of Emerson, of whom his son writes: "She gave high counsel. It was the
privilege of certain boys to have this immeasurably high standard
indicated in their childhood, a blessing which nothing else in
education could supply. Lift up your aims, always do what you are
afraid to do, scorn trifles,--such were the maxims she gave her
nephews and which they made their own.... Be generous and great and
you will confer benefits on society, not receive them, through life.
Emerson himself said of his aunt[S]: her power over the mind of her
young friends was almost despotic, describing her influence upon
himself as great as that of Greece or Rome.

It may in truth often be a sister who brings strength and heartening
to a man. Ernest Renan writes to his sister Henriette[T]: "But that
ideal does not exist in our workaday world, I fear. Life is a
struggle, Life is hard and painful, yet let us not lose courage. If
the road be steep, we have within us a great strength; we shall
surmount our stumbling-block. It is enough if we possess our
conscience in rectitude, if our aim be noble, our will firm and
constant. Let happen what may, on that foundation we can build up our
lives." Again he wrote to her: "My lonely, tired heart finds infinite
sweetness in resting upon yours. I sometimes think that I could be
quite happy in a simple, common life, which I should ennoble from
within. Then I think of you and look higher." The tender inquisitress
was not satisfied, declares the biographer of Renan,[U] until all was
pure, exact, discreet and true. She said to her brother: Be thou
perfect. Most of all she sought to cultivate in him the habit of
veracity, a habit the seminary had not inculcated it appears. So great
was the influence of Henriette that for years afterward not only did
her brother act as she would bid him act, but, far rarer triumph of
her love, he thought as she would have bid him think, in all
seriousness, in all tenderness, with a remote and noble elevation,
checking as they rose those impulses toward irony, frivolity,
scepticism, which she had not loved.



Before answering the question, what of the Jewish home, before
discussing the problem to what extent does the irrepressible conflict
take place therein, it is needful to place the Jewish home in its
proper setting. In truth, the historical glory of the Jewish home, let
Jews remember and non-Jews learn, is the most beautiful and honorable
chapter in Jewish history. Nothing can dim the brightness of its
one-time splendor. If nothing else of Israel were to survive, the
memory of the home would honor and glorify Israel for all time. Truly
there is nothing in world history quite comparable thereto.

Somehow the world without has been touched to awe at the beauty and
radiance of the home in Israel. It has felt that the reverent love
within the Jewish home was more than love and reverence, that these
were touched by that beauty of holiness which gave to them their
exalted quality. The Jewish home blended two ideals, patriarchal and
matriarchal. It was never patriarchate alone, nor yet solely
matriarchate. It was a home governed by a joint sovereignty. It rested
no more truly upon tender love for the mother than upon real reverence
for the father. In a sense, it might be thought that herein the Jewish
home was not unique, for Plato had said: "After the gods and
demi-gods, parents ought to have the most honor." And Aristotle had
added: "It is proper to give them honor such as is given to the gods."
But the God whom Israel honored stood infinitely higher than the gods
whom the Greeks honored before parents. Canon Driver points out in the
Cambridge Bible that duty to parents stands next to duties toward God:
the penalty for cursing them is death even as the penalty for
blaspheming God. Ibn Ezra held that, if Israel keep this
commandment,--Honor thy father and thy mother,--it will not be exiled
from the promised land. Exiled it was from the promised land, but
obedience to the fifth Commandment did much to make the life of
Israel despite exile one of the beauty of promise fulfilled.

The grace and glory of the Jewish home were twofold. The selflessness
of parents evoked such filial tenderness and self-forgetfulness as to
bring about the perfect understanding of togetherness. The reverence
of the Jewish child for parents continued even beyond death. The
passing of the visible presence of a parent little lessened and often
greatened the revering love of the Jewish child. This accounts for the
pathos and romance associated with the "Kaddish" chant of the Hebrew
liturgy, forerunner of the Mass, and perhaps in the mind of Jesus when
he bade, Do this in remembrance of Me. This glorification of the
Author of death as well as life, is not to be viewed as a symbol of
ancestor-worship but rather as a sign of the tenderest of human pieties.

What the child was in the Jewish home it became because of what its
parents were toward it. To say that the Jewish mother has been
unsurpassed in the history of men because she dreamed that a child by
her borne might become a Messiah of its people does not quite touch
the roots of the unbelievable tenderness and beauty of maternal
dedication in the Jewish home. Neither is the relation of the Jewish
father and child wholly to be explained by the fact of his involuntary
aloofness from the world and his dependence upon the home for
whatsoever of peace and joy this world could give him. It is not too
much to say that the Messianic ideal of the Jewish mother and the fact
of the Jew's exclusion from the world without may have tended to
deepen and to hallow parental love, but the mystery abides not less
wondrous in some ways than the mystery of Israel's survival.

Certain perils, it might be imagined, were the inevitable
accompaniment of or sequel to this wonderful love and reverence within
the Jewish home,--the peril of repression of the inner life of the
child chiefly and also of the parent. But students of Jewish history
would hardly aver that the intellectual and spiritual nature of the
child was really stifled or stunted by reason of the illimitable
filial reverence. And if at times there was intellectual
self-repression and spiritual self-surrender, who can measure the
inmost and invisible gains which accrued to and rewarded the child?

It is a happy thought of Renan[V] that all the joys of Israel are in
reality an enlargement of the family life; their feast is a repast in
common, the natural eucharist to which the poor is admitted, a
thanksgiving for life as it is with its limits, which do not prevent
it from being present under the eye of Jahweh who dispenses good and
evil. The Fifth Commandment bade more than obedience on the part of
children to parents; by indirection it enjoined parents and children
alike to magnify the home, to make it the centre and core of Israel's
life, so that it became the very salvation of Israel when no other
salvation was at hand.

The very name that is given to Israel, the house of Israel, seems to
have been prophetic of what the family life of Israel was destined to
be. The house of Israel and the life of the Jewish home became
interchangeable terms. That the Jewish home safeguarded and
perpetuated Israel through ages of darkness and tears and tragedy is
true beyond peradventure. Whether this home-life in all its dignity
and grandeur was the result of the ghetto is rather doubtful. The
ghetto, which was the environment of the exile in its narrowest terms,
gave to Israel an unique opportunity for the development of what might
be called its genius for home-life. But if opportunity and genius
conjoined to create the result, this genius was inspired and fortified
from generation to generation by willing, even eager, obedience to the
Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue.

One might search far and wide without finding a finer illustration of
the character of the Jewish parental-filial relation than the
immemorial service in the Jewish home, commonly known as the Seder or
service of the Passover eve. That Seder with its family symposium has
been the glory of Israel throughout the ages. Ofttimes its serene joy
and august peace have been marred by brutal attack and onslaught, but
even this, the invasion by the world's hosts, has but served to lend a
new dignity and pathos to its beauty. Precious and historic memories
revolve about this family-scene, the children turning to the parents
for counsel and teaching and parents turning to their children and
giving these of their best by bringing God and the recognition of His
wonderful leading to the life of the child.

That Seder of the Passover eve in the Jewish home reminds one of the
Biblical parable,--for parable it is though the chronicler know it
not,--that even in slave-ridden Egypt the angel of death could not
touch the Jewish home. It was exempt from the ravages of death,
because within it was something of immortal quality, something immune
to the challenge of destruction. The Jew who knows something of the
history of his people, over and beyond the list of boarding-schools so
Christian as to shut out Jewish children, knows that this was
prefigured by the prophet when he announced in the unforgettable word
of the Hebrew Bible: And He shall turn the heart of the parents to the
children and the heart of the children to the parents. That is exactly
what the Jewish home did, turning the hearts of parent and child to
each other, knitting them together in one indissoluble tie, so that
the home become as naught else the very soul of Israel.



So much for the traditions of the Jewish home! What of it in this day
and generation? The fact cannot be denied that the Jewish home is
seriously threatened in our time. I do not go so far as a commentator
on Jewish affairs, who declared as long as a decade ago: "The Jewish
home, as we have known and loved it for ages, has ceased to be. It is
no longer a Jewish home but the home of Jews. All the grace and beauty
of Jewish ceremonial and custom have died out of it. The young
generation goes out into the world, unaffected by the influences that
held past generations loyal, and so Judaism and the community go alike
to waste." And, yet, that the indictment is not wholly unjustifiable
came to me when I learned of a Jewish mother who insisted upon a young
married daughter averting the birth of a child, because its coming
would interfere with and abbreviate a long-planned summer vacation in
European lands. The home which trifles with life's dignities and
sanctities in this fashion is become a mockery of the one-time
majestic Jewish home.

It will be noted that the reference is not to the vast majority of
Jewish homes in West European lands and in our lands, for these are
the homes of the poor. And the homes of the poor present a problem,
which in the absence of economic-industrial adjustment no ethical
aspiration will solve. As for the largest number of Jewish homes in
America, in them dwell victims of the mass migration movement which
has within two generations transplanted huge numbers from continent to
continent. Who will decide which raises the more serious problem, the
involuntary migration of the hapless many or the voluntary imitation
of the world by an unhappy few? There has really been more than a
migration, for innumerable hosts have suddenly been compelled not only
to wander from one continent to another but to leave one world behind
them and to enter into a wholly new world.

The move is not merely from Russia or Roumania, Galicia or the Levant
to America; it is a plunge into a new world-life with all that such
sudden sea-change involves. This transplantation to strange climes and
an alien life results in many cases in the tragedy of utter
misunderstanding and alienation between parent and children, a tragedy
remaining for some Zangwill to portray. But it is not only the homes
of the poor and the oppressed Jews the texture of which has greatly
altered within a generation. For within the homes of the well-to-do in
Israel a graver and a sadder peril has come to threaten as a result of
the repudiation, though it be implicit, of parental responsibility at
its highest and of filial duty at its finest, which repudiation in
truth is sequent upon the abandonment of the ancient and long
unwearied idealism of the Jew.

If the homes of the poor are endangered from without, the home of the
rich is in peril from within. Prosperity and its abandonment of the
highest have undermined the home to a degree beyond the possibility of
the effect of adversity. If it behoove children not to be over-insistent
upon their parents accepting their ways and becoming exactly like them,
it is trebly necessary for children to understand that foreignism in
parents does not justify them in compelling parents to assimilate the
externals of the new world and its new life. Under these circumstances,
parents have a peculiar right to be themselves, to insist upon the
essentials of their own _modus vivendi_, to cherish and maintain the
things by which they lived in a past arbitrarily cut off.

It ought to be said that the Jewish home has been more menaced by the
life of the world into which Israel has in some part entered than by
any other circumstance. The truth is that the Jew's home is become a
part of the world and in its new orientation (or occidentalization)
has lost its other-wordly touch or nimbus. Thus Israel never really
found it necessary to stress filial obedience. The latter has always
been one of the things taken for granted. Save for its obviously
necessary inclusion in the Decalogue, the Jew has always dealt with
filial obedience as it dealt with the theory of divine existence or
the fact of Israel's persecution taking all alike for granted.

If the conflict in the home is a little sharper within than without
Jewish life, this is in some degree the defect of its quality. The
large part played by the home in the life of the Jew makes the
transition to the new order seem harsh and bitter. The Jewish parent
of yore lived his life within the walls of the home, and the Jewish
mother particularly passed her days within the limits of a home. It is
not easy for the Jewish mother to surrender that sense of possession
which grows out of undivided preoccupation with child or children,
that sense of possession fostered as much by a child's sense of
dutifulness as by parental concern. The Jewish mother, whom the
middle-aged have known and loved, found her deepest and most
engrossing interest in the days and deeds of her children. It may be
and it is necessary for the Jewish mother to relinquish her long-time
sense of ownership, but let it not be imagined to be easy. And it is
the harder because with, perhaps before, its relinquishment comes a
sense of deep loss and hurt to the child.

Nor would the necessity of yielding up the sense of possession in
itself be so serious, if there did not coincide with it an ofttimes
exaggerated sense of independence in the Jewish child. We may be
witnessing an almost conscious break with the centuried tradition of
filial self-subordination, or it may be that the revolt of the Jewish
child seems more serious than it is because of the filial habit of
obedience in the life of the Jewish home. Whatever be the explanation
of the new filial role in the Jewish home, it is a sorry thing that
Israel in its assimilative passion should be ready to surrender the
home and its historic content, should be so unsure of itself and so
sure of the world without as to be willing to give up its best and
most precious for the sake of uniformity with the world.

And there are Jews who forget that the world reverences and honors the
Jewish home even as it reveres the Bible of the Jew! A wise friend has
written: "Whenever and wherever I have been asked by non-Jews what I
consider the greatest and most permanent contribution of the Jew to
civilization, I have always answered: the Jewish home. Ancient Greece
knew of no real home as we understand it. Israel did." But it is not
enough to laud the Jewish home of old. If Jews are to rest satisfied
with praises of the Jewish home that was instead of seeking to beautify
and ennoble the Jewish home that is, then, remembering the word of
Juvenal, virtue is the sole and only nobility, may it truly be said of
the Jew in the language of the rabbis: "As the dust differs from the
gold, so our generation differs from the generations of the fathers."

And yet there is no Jewish question here, though there be a Jewish
aspect of the wider problem we are considering. Jewish parents have in
the past for reasons given or hinted at been almost Chinese in their
adoration of a child. And when the day of parenthood dawns, these may
be as unwisely adoring and hopelessly indulgent touching their
children as were their parents. It may be that in the past Jewish
parents have given more to their children than have non-Jewish. Let
less be given parentally and more be asked,--Jewish parent and Jewish
child need this counsel most.



The home lies somewhere between the outer and the inner life of man
and its life touches and is touched by both. It is one of the highways
through which one passes from the inner to the outer life, the place,
to change the figure, where the inner life is touched by the outer
world and by it tested and searched and challenged. The place of the
home in relation to the inner life is shown forth by the truth that
nothing which the world can give balances the hurts and wounds one may
suffer within the home. Yet such is the magic and mystery of the home
that it can heal every wound, which the world without inflicts. It is
in the home that the peace of the inner life most clearly reveals
itself, that one's soul finds itself most nearly invulnerable to the
wounds of the world without. Shakespeare is true to the facts, if
facts they may be called, in his tremendous picture of the storm on
the heath, which in its terror is less terrible than the storm in the
home-life of the banished and broken Lear.

The relations of the home constitute a test which nearly every one of
us must meet and unhappiest is he who is outside of their range. No
school, no testing-place like that of the home! And it is well to bear
in mind that no man greatly succeeds in life, who fails in his own
home, not merely because the rewards of the world cannot compensate
for the failure of home-life, but because no successes without save
from utterly tragic failure him who has failed within the home!

Home may be heavenly in its harmonies or hellish in its discords. To
maintain that the difference is the result of love or lovelessness in
the home does not tell the whole story. Whether home is to be heaven
or hell, wracked by discord or attuned to harmony, depends upon them
that make it, all of them, yea, upon the all of all that make a home.
One alone may mar a home, any one of its members, husband or wife,
parent or child, brother or sister, though all together are needed to
minister to its perfection.

And how are the harmonies to be achieved and the discords to be
avoided? And the answer is,--through courtesy, consideration,
comradeship,--all in turn, alike in the major and minor issues of
life, going back to self-rule not self-will. Courtesy and
consideration together constitute the chivalry of the home, courtesy
its outer token, consideration its inner prompting. The chivalry of
the home is a reminder, occasionally required by both parents and
children, that courtesy is not a grace if reserved for and bestowed
solely upon strangers. The man or child, who is a churl at home and
limits his courtesy extra-murally, is not only a pitiable boor but a
contemptible hypocrite.

And consideration is something more than courtesy, for the latter
springs from it as both are rooted in the sympathy which is the _origo
et fons_ of comradeship. Consideration like an angel comes, moving the
family members to think with and for others, not of themselves as
pitilessly misunderstood but as capable of understanding others
because possessed of the will to understand.

But there can be neither outward courtesy nor inmost consideration,
least of all comradeship, unless there be the grace of avoidance of
those temptations to selfishness, which more than all else blight the
home by leading to conflict irrepressible and irreconcilable.
Unselfishness in its higher or lower sense is the _conditio sine qua
non_ of the parental-filial relation, even as selfishness is deadly
not only to those who are guilty of it but to those who needlessly
endure it. For selfishness it is which more than all else converts the
home into a prison, even a dungeon. Parents have the right to ask of
children that they shall avoid the besetting sin of childhood, namely,
selfishness, though usually the guilt of filial selfishness rests upon
the head of parents who long suffer children to indulge in selfishness
for the sake of parental indulgence. Fostering filial selfishness is
ofttimes little more than a cheap and easy way of holding oneself up
for self-approval and to filial commendation.

Nothing is more important than to teach children, especially the
children of the privileged, the art of unselfishness unless it be for
the parents of privileged children to practice it. The fact that
many, many families in our days are of the one or two-children variety
gives to the child a tremendous impact in the direction of
self-centredness,--toward what I have elsewhere called an egocentric
or "meocentric" world. If, however, as happens too commonly, children
are treated by selfishly and idiotically indulgent parents during the
years of childhood and adolescence as if every one of them were the
center of the universe, it will little avail to cry out against the
child's selfishness just because he or she has reached twenty.
Other-centredness will not be substituted for self-centredness at
twenty, however much parents may be dismayed, if during the first
twenty years the perhaps native selfishness of the child have been
ministered to in every imaginable way.

In order to deepen the spirit of filial unselfishness it is needful to
give or rather to help children to have and to hold an aim bigger than
themselves. Given unselfishness, the freedom from self-seeking and
self-ministration and the presence of the will to minister and to
forbear, that unselfishness which is the exclusive grace neither of
parent nor of child, then comradeship, the hand-in-hand quest of life,
become possible. Then and only then may parent and child become
comrades, not fellow-boarders and roomers and hoarders, but
fellow-travelers and sojourners alike along life's way. Without
comradeship, whatever else there be, there can be no such thing as home.
Comradeship shuts out the sense of possession, prevents the invasion of
personality, averts alike parental tyranny and filial autocracy.

But comradeship is not to be achieved through the word of parents and
children,--Go to, let us be comrades. For comradeship is that which
grows out of the cumulative and united experience of parent and child,
if these have so lived and so labored together that unconsciously and
inevitably there come to pass the fellowship of life's pilgrimage in
real togetherness, comrades with souls "utterly true forever and aye."
No compulsion to sympathy and understanding and forbearance where the
spirit of comradeship dwells! And such comradeship is unaffected by
outward circumstance or by diversities of viewpoint or of educational
opportunity or of worldly possession.

Perhaps comradeship ought to be stressed for a moment, viewing a
tendency not quite uncommon to shelve parents, however politely, on
the part of children once they imagine themselves to have become
mature beings. Parental euthenasia can be practised or attempted in
many and subtle ways. Sir William Osler's forty years as a limit,--of
course the attribution is essentially fallacious,--fit into the notion
of those children who are for an easy and if possible painless
superannuation of lagging parents.

Needless to insist, comradeship means infinitely more than physical
proximity. If children but knew how at last when they are grown and
maturing, parents sometimes hunger for the companionship of son and
daughter, these might be ready to give up some of their comrades
whether first-rate or third-rate to satisfy the hunger of the parental
heart for companionship with the child. True, it is, that parents must
fit themselves throughout life for such comradeship, keeping their
hearts young and their minds unclosed. But frequently the failure is
due to the sheer selfishness of children, that selfishness which
considers not nor forbears, which lightly misunderstands and
unadvisedly rejects the parent as comrade on the way, though the
parent-heart hunger and ache. Children should not require exhortation
to the end that they remember parents are not feeders, clothiers,
stewards, landlords, boarding-house keepers, and that in exceptional
cases these continue to have the right to live after passing the
Methuselah frontier of fifty or sixty.

One is polite in exchange of courteous word even with one's hotel
clerk. Occasionally one confides in the mistress of a boarding-house.
If children but knew the pain some parents feel in that attitude of
children which reduces them in their own sight to the level of utterly
negligible rooming-house keepers for strangers, they could not demean
themselves as they do. This complaint has been voiced to me a number
of times within recent years, alike by people of cultivation and by
simple, untutored folk. In the former case, the filial silences are
generally due to disagreements and misunderstanding. There is such a
thing as the acceptance of hospitality on the part of children which
compels certain reciprocal courtesies. When children for any reason
are unable or unwilling to yield the elementary courtesies of the
home, it is for them in all decency to decide whether they are
justified in accepting its hospitality.

And comradeship must welcome not regret, nurture not stifle, the fine
impatiences of youth, the eager, oft unconsidered, superb, at best
resistless, idealisms of youth. Parents are not to mistake this finely
impatient idealism for unreasoning impetuosity. They are to remember
that, howsoever inconveniently and troublingly, youth represents the
ungainsayable imperiousness of the future. Parental scoffing and
cynicism are more chilling to the heart of youth than the world's
derision. The world's scornful darts fall hurtless upon the shield of
him, armed by parental hand for life's battle with the weapons of
idealism. And in comradeship it is not enough for parents not to mock
nor to be scornful of children's so-called impracticable ideals. Where
these are not, parents must commend them by their own works rather
than command them by their words. Comradeship always means the taking
of counsel and not the giving of commands. But there can be no taking
of counsel with youth at twenty if the parental habit have been one of
command prior to that time. Twenty years of absolutism cannot suddenly
be replaced by the democratic way of holding counsel.

Parents must be willing to forfeit all save honor in pressing upon
youth the categorical and undeniable summons of the ideal. Parents
must sometimes, ofttimes, be immovably firm, so firm as to be ready to
lose the love of children rather than to sacrifice their self-respect.
Men and women are not worthy of the dignity and glory of parenthood
who lack the courage to brave the frown of a child, the strength to
front a child's displeasure. Remembering that parents usually love
their children not wisely but too well and that children love their
parents wisely but not too well, let the gentleness of parents be
lifted up and hallowed by firmness and the firmness of children be
hallowed and glorified by gentleness.

If anything the case is still harder for the uneducated or slightly
educated parents of children, who have been enabled to tread the
highway of education. It seems indecent on the part of these to
treat parents in contemptuous fashion, sitting at table with them but
never exchanging a word of converse. Even when children have virtually
attained the heights of omniscience, it is well for them to remember
that earth's greatest are not too proud to hold converse with the
lowliest, and that one's education is measured not by the number of
languages one speaks but by the fineness of spirit that shines through
one's speech, however ungrammatical and one's acts however unveneered.
Comradeship is not to be bought by parents, neither can it be bribed
by children. It must not mean the forfeiture of standards. The
comradeship that it not suffered to hold the target ever higher is not
comradeship but compromise. The comradeship that dare not press higher
standards is not comradeship. The comradeship that fears to urge the
ennobling ideal is not comradeship but concession.

I have before me as I write a letter or a fragment of a letter written
by a young sergeant of the French army to his parents ere he fared
forth in early August, 1914, to Lorraine,--a youth of promise on the
eve of fulfilment. These are his words, unread until after his death
in the following month, which he gloriously met, fighting to the end
against the overwhelming numbers to which he refused to surrender. "Be
sustained by the contemplation of the beautiful which you cannot fail
to love, and which brings you to the eternal principle to which our
soul returns.... It is not they who pass for whom we must mourn. I
desire but one thing, that I may have a death worthy of the life of my
admirable and truly loved father." No conflict here but perfect
concord, the concord of a perfect comradeship. The father a
distinguished servant of his country in war and peace, the mother a
seeker after God and the highest, had been as his comrades, going just
a little before and teaching him how to live and toil and hope. He
dared all and fell with peace in his heart and faith in his
unconquered soul that all was well, that the comradeship of earth
would merge at last in the comradeship eternal.

The Prophet was right: "And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to
the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers." For the
Messiah is born when the hearts of parents and children are turned to
each other in reverence and selflessness. For then it is that the home
is brought nearer to the presence of God and that clashing and
conflict end--when, in the word of a noble teacher of our generation,
it is remembered that "the child is itself a gift, first to parents
out of the infinite, then by them to the eternal."


[A] Toward Social Reform, p. 111.

[B] Parenthood and Race Culture, p. 193.

[C] Life of Alice Freeman Palmer, p. 68.

[D] Choice of Books, p. 8.

[E] Emerson, "The Oversoul."

[F] Atlantic Monthly, August, 1921, p. 221.

[G] Our Social Heritage, p. 60.

[H] _Idem_, p. 95.

[I] _Idem_, p. 224.

[J] P. 63.

[K] Getting Married, Preface, pp. 132-133.

[L] The Making of a Teacher, p. 34.

[M] Emerson in Concord (E. W. Emerson) p. 8.

[N] Emerson in Concord, p. 21.

[O] Tucker, Public-Mindedness, p. 133.

[P] Cheerful Yesterdays, p. 123.

[Q] Cheerful Yesterdays, p. 160.

[R] Public-Mindedness, p. 77.

[S] Higginson, Contemporaries, p. 2.

[T] Darmesteter, Life of Renan, p. 45.

[U] _Idem_, p. 103.

[V] History of Israel, Vol. II, p. 163.

[Transcriber's Note:

* The footnotes have been moved to the end of the book.

* Pg 6 Corrected spelling of words "needs limit" to "need limits"
located in the phrase "I must needs limit myself".

* Pg 20 Corrected spelling of word "harrassing" to "harassing" located
in the phrase "out of a harrassing difficulty".

* Pg 43 Corrected spelling of word "relalation" to "relation" located
in the phrase "parental-filial relalation".

* Pg 71 Corrected spelling of word "harrassed" to "harassed" located
 in the phrase "however harrassed and unhappy".

* Pg 82 Corrected spelling of word "unharrassed" to "unharassed" located
in the phrase "to live apart, unharrassed".

* Pg 95 Corrected spelling of word "excedingly" to "exceedingly" located
in the phrase "it proves excedingly hard".

* Pg 130 Corrected spelling of word "irreconciliable" to
"irreconcilable" located in the phrase "conflict irrepressible and

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