Playing Mother

Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851

"It's just as you raise them," said Mr. Warner, in his dogmatic way. "I don't believe in a boy's taking to a hammer, and a girl to a doll, from an instinct of nature. Girls are different, because they are educated differently; there is no other law in the matter."

"My experience," said a lady, who made one of a little company numbering about half a dozen, and she spoke in a quiet way, "leads me to a different conclusion. Each gender has a use in society peculiarly its own; and from the earliest childhood, impulses pointing thitherward may be seen. Gentle, tender, and loving are the uses of woman--and for these she is fitted by God. Hardier, rougher, bolder is man--because he is designed by God for a different sphere of life. The boy takes the hammer, the whip, or any other plaything that is noisy, or calls for the exercise of strength and action; while the girl as naturally busies herself with her doll, or her cups and saucers."

"Simply," replied Mr. Warner, "because you provide a hammer and whip for the one--and a doll for the other."

"No," returned the lady, "the cause lies deeper than this. It is radical. How is it with your own little Anna? She is here today."

"She never had a doll in her life; I will not permit such a thing to come into my house. I wish to develop the strength--not the weakness of her character." And, as Mr. Warner spoke, he threw a glance upon his wife, which said, plainly enough, "This wouldn't be so, if you had your way."

"Oh!" remarked the lady, "then you are trying to warp her character to suit your own theory. You are not willing to let it develop naturally, and, as I would say, healthfully."

"I wish to give it a strong and healthy development."

"Then it must grow from inward elements. If you warp it, as you are certainly doing--you will weaken and deform--instead of producing beauty, health, and strength."

"So you think," said Mr. Warner, a little rudely. Opinionated men are very often rude to ladies.

"Yes, I think so," replied the lady, not seeming to notice the man's rude manner.

"Where is your dear little girl?" asked one of the company, a little while after, addressing Mrs. Warner.

"She's playing about the garden. I saw her from the window a few minutes ago."

"It would be a pleasant experiment," said the lady with whom the child's father had held the controversy, "just to take a look after Anna, and see what she is doing. I'll warrant that the girl's instincts are predominant in her acts. You'll not find her dragging up the flowers, nor throwing stones at the birds, nor even digging in the dirt."

"You'll probably find her racing about with the boys," said the father.

"We'll see; come!" and the lady started for the door. The company followed her out. Anna was not in the garden among the flowers, nor romping with the boys.

"Anna!" called the mother. They listened, and her sweet, young voice was heard faintly answering. Guided by the sound, she was soon discovered by those in search of her.

"What is she doing?" asked Mr. Warner, who did not at first see her distinctly.

"Playing mother," replied the lady with whom he had held the controversy; and she spoke in a tone of triumph.

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Warner.

"See for yourself."

"The little witch!" exclaimed the father, affected with pleasure, in spite of himself, by what he saw.

Anna had found a cap belonging to the lady at whose house they were visiting, and, with this drawn upon her head, was nursing a rabbit with the earnest fondness of a mother.

The ladies caught the happy child in their arms, and almost devoured her with kisses, while Mr. Warner escaped back into the house to re-arrange his forces for a new battle on his favorite hobby-horse.