Why Children Are Necessary To Happiness
( Originally Published 1918 )
HUMAN beings are seeking always for self-expression. As children, they express themselves in their play. When they reach maturity they find self-expression in both play and work ; but in these ways alone they do not find complete manifestation of the inner self. With-out any doubt, this is one great reason for the overwhelming desire of all normal human beings to have children. These helpless little creatures who come into our homes reproduce our features, our traits, our qualities, and we have the hope that they will more fully realize our ambitions than we have been able to do. Just when the burden of life is becoming heaviest, and we have begun to lose the keen zest for action which in earlier days made every effort seem worth while, these fresh young lives spring up around us. By their enthusiasm and their overflowing spirits they thrill us anew with the joy of living, and we look out upon life through their eyes with renewed and increased powers of enjoyment.
Those who have been deprived of the joy of children withdraw more or less completely into themselves, and Iook upon life as observers from the outside. Those, however, to whom have been granted the joys of parenthood are drawn into the main currents of life by their ever-active off-spring, and thus are practically compelled to keep young. They find that their children's triumphs bring them greater joy than did their own in the years gone by, and they find a peculiar pleasure in using for their children's welfare the wisdom which they have gained through life's hard knocks. Everything now that they have endured seems more worth while, because it has more completely equipped them for the successful direction and care of these young lives. No struggle is too severe, no sacrifice too great, if it but contribute to the happiness of these loved dependents. The day's labor is sweeteend for them by the thought of the happiness that is to come to the children through their efforts. They work not for the uninteresting reward of gain, or their own livelihood, but with the inspiring purpose of bringing to these keen young creatures as much as possible of the pleasures and possibilities of life.
In a home where there are no children the interests are very circumscribed. There are only two to contribute to the subjects of conversation, or to the account of daily experiences. Where children gather about the board, however, there is no lack of subjects of discussion, of laughter, and of that hopefulness which dispels all clouds and prevents any settled gloom.
It is sometimes hard, when the children are little, for the mother to be obliged to sacrifice her days and nights to their physical care. The father, it may be, gets a little stoop-shouldered as he drudges day after day to earn their daily bread. But as the years go by the rewards be-come greater and greater. Often only in old age do the parents really discover that the sacrifices of those early years are now bringing their full reward.
We cannot measure the development of character which comes through the care and training of children. In order to control them, we must learn self-control. Ingenuity is developed, undreamed-of capabilities unfolded, self-sacrifice and devotion encouraged, through the care of the children. In fact, if one were to go into a study of the development of the human race it would be discovered that it was by the pressing needs of their little ones that primitive man and woman were forced to take the first steps of that upward path which leads to what we call civilization. For themselves, man and woman might have been content with things as they were ; but the discomforts suffered by their offspring drove them to making unaccustomed efforts for their relief. In that way, and in that way alone, did the human race achieve its mastery of the material universe, and, without doubt, it is through the service of their young that the human race will go on to the unfoldment of the highest spiritual faculties which they possess.