Children And Guests
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ONE of the oldest and raciest of household maxims is that " Children should be seen and not heard." This, it is true, may be over-applied, resulting in loss of self-confidence and embarrassing shyness in children too often and too carelessly repressed.
From the point of view of the outsider, however, it is usually regarded as most commendable doctrine: it is unquestionable that a visitor would rather see than listen to, or hear too much about his host's youngsters.
There is a pleasant English custom, copied to some extent here, which might well prevail. At a dinner, the little people of the family (not babies) come in at the serving of dessert. They have had their evening meal earlier, and do not need to partake of heavy courses. Now they are permitted a taste of the sweets, have a bit of the festivities, receive some notice from the grown-ups, and get a small lesson in proper behavior; but they quickly retire.
"In our American homes, too often young children monopolize attention, and are real nuisances to guests," says Janet Curtiss; and she adds: "Some parents have this weakness: they constantly fail to see that their children are not interesting to outsiders as to themselves. After the baby's first tooth has been duly examined and admired-of course there was never one so pearly before!-don't, don't ask the bachelor guest if he wouldn't like to hold the dear little fellow. Why, the man would infinitely prefer grasping a red-hot poker!
"After Mary has spoken her piece, and Tom's bright sayings have been reported, and Johnny has done all his acrobatic stunts, don't be oblivious to your guest's endeavors to suppress or hide a yawn. Send the dear children out, or at least put them into an inconspicuous background.
"After they have gone, don't continue to talk about them. Important subjects of conversation as children really are, they do pall sometimes, and there are many other topics for interesting discussion. At least, if your guests are themselves parents, permit them to get in a word now and then relating to their own offspring."