|About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search|
CHAPTER THREE: UPON THE REARING OF CHILDREN, PART TWO--THE CHILDHOOD AND TEEN YEARS*
The next Milestone of a child’s life is his or her Fifth Birthday. This the time that a child leaves faunthood behind, and like the Third Birthday is special.
The day before the child’s birthday it is customary for him or her to Receive gifts. These presents, five in number, are from the Parents and four other Relations: usually the Grandparents and possibly older Siblings, or Aunts, Uncles or Cousins who have a particularly close relationship with the child. They are usually presented after first breakfast.
During the remaining course of the day *prior* to The Day, they may also receive other gifts from any who care to give them. But a wise Parent will discourage too many gifts for the young byrding: he or she is likely to become Overexcited, and miss the true point of the Birthday, which is the Giving of the Gifts.
It should be emphasized to the small byrding that he or she will now be bestowing Presents like a “big lad” or “big lass”, a lure that will fill the childish heart with pride and glee. At some point, these Gifts must be chosen.
For children in small families, this is no burden. He or she may gather flowers, draw a picture, or find some small item of his or her own to pass on. For those children who live in their Ancestral Home among the Great Families, however, or who have a large number of Doting Relations planning to attend the Party, the best choice is for the Mother to take the byrding to the family Mathom Room. There they may select appropriate gifts. A child’s reasoning may not always be Obvious when they chose an item for someone; however, originality is to be Encouraged, as it shows they are making an Effort to think of the Recipient.
Do not distress the child with having to make Too Many Choices, however. Let him or her choose a few gifts for the Immediate Family, and then Guest List in hand, Mother may choose the rest. It is not uncommon in some families for the Mother to purchase a New present for the child to give the Father, and for the Father to do the same for the Mother. This indulgence, however should be limited to the byrding’s Fifth Birthday only. And allowing a child to give all New Presents which were neither made nor gathered is in Very Poor Taste, and is simply Showing Off for the Parent’s own sake. Do not make the mistake of thinking that others will not Notice if one is Using one’s child to Impress. It has in fact, the Opposite Effect, and people think Very Poorly of such efforts.
Again, unless one is living in the Ancestral Home, it is also in Poor Taste to throw an elaborate Party for a child--even on the Fifth Birthday. It is likely to give the byrding a false impression of his or her own Importance in the World, as well as result in the child being overtired and overexcited. However, for those who dwell in such Family Smials, it is difficult indeed, to exclude any Members of the Family, and so Allowances must be made.
Children between the Ages of Five and Twelve are especially delightful. They are usually biddable and obedient, and want very much the approval of their Mother, Father, Grandparents and other Close Relations. It is at this Age as well, that one may see the manifestation of Deep Friendships that will last throughout a Lifetime. There is nothing so Sweet and Dear as to see young children gamboling in play together, or walking about Hand in Hand, exploring the delights of Nature. The Affectionate Disposition of a young child is a pleasure to behold.
At this age, it is especially Important for siblings to share a bed. The comfort of snuggling close, and the sense of Safety it engenders is Very Important. I am aware that some consider this notion Old-Fashioned, and that many Hobbits of Means provide separate rooms and beds for their children. I think this unwise. It is the Normal State of things for children to want this cuddling--and many Parents find that separate rooms make no Difference to a younger child, who when faced with the Dark, or with a frightening Nightmare will automatically seek out the bed of an older sibling.
This is also a Good Thing for the older child. Big Brother or Big Sister will learn to be Affectionate and Protective.
Lest any doubt my assertion that this is the Natural State of Things for Hobbit Children, I offer the following Observation:
Upon a visit to the Great Smials a number of years ago, I became aware that also visiting were four children were there who were ordinarily Accustomed to Sleeping Alone. They were Cousins who lived far apart, and saw One Another only on visits. Three of them were only children, who at Home slept alone, and the fourth was a lad, the youngest of his family, whose older Sisters were deemed Too Old for him to share their bed. All had been assigned Guest Beds, for in the Great Smials the habit of Children sleeping Alone was much encouraged.
Nonetheless, while chatting with the Children’s Parents in one of the Sitting Rooms in the Guest Quarters, the Mother of the youngest arose to check on her son. She was not Alarmed when she found him not in his own bed, but instead, immediately checked the bed of the Eldest Cousin. She smiled and summoned those of us who had been in the Sitting Room to come and peek into the darkened Room.
All four of the Cousins were asleep together, and the two Youngest were in the center, and the two Older Cousins had protectively embraced them. It was a sweet sight to see them so, and moved me very much.
As we left, the Mother of the youngest told me that it was the habit of these Cousins to seek one another at night whenever they visited, as though it were to be taken for granted.
This brings up the plight of the Only Child. He or she cannot, of course, remain in the Parental Bed forever. But the Parents should be very Understanding of their child when they deem him or her old Enough to leave it. It can be a frightening and Trying time for both Parents and Child, but with Patience it can be accomplished. However, Parents should also be willing to make exception when a child is ill or has Night Terrors.
It is a very good Idea, as soon as Faunthood has passed, to begin introducing the Child to the Delightful Mysteries of the Kitchen. At age five he or she may begin to do such tasks as helping to stir batters, fill the sugar bowl, fetch ingredients for Mother or Cook, wipe the table or lay the dishes. At this point, the Child should begin to learn how to be safe near the Hearth and Stove, and to be careful of Knives. They should not yet be allowed to use such things until the Adult is certain of their Understanding. By eight, it is possible that with close supervision, he or she may begin to use a Knife to Cut Bread or slice Vegetables. However, it is unwise to allow a child younger than eleven to use the Cookfire. Even when they have begun to do so, be sure that they are closely Watched, and do not attempt to remove from the Stove something that may be too heavy to handle. And it goes without saying that Children under sixteen should never be Alone in the Kitchen. Aside from the Many Dangers to be found there, there are also a large number of Temptations. Even children older than this are not to be Trusted alone in the Larder! Still, when Necessary, a child of eighteen should easily be able to Prepare a simple Family Meal on his or her own.
Sometime between the ages of five and seven, it is time for Mother or Father to begin the teaching of Reading, Writing and doing Sums. Of course the Parent will have to teach the Eldest child. If there is at least a gap of four years between the Eldest and the next child, then that duty can be passed to him or her, as this is a good responsibility and also reinforces the lessons he or she has already learned. However, if the children are too close in age, such a Duty may not be productive. And at any rate, the older child should be at least eleven before undertaking such work. Much younger than that, and the Lessons are more likely to turn into Play, without any Real Learning taking place. And even if Big Brother or Sister is teaching the Lessons, it is still wise for Mother or Father to take a hand from time to time, and to Test whether the younger child is learning all that he or she needs to learn.
(I am, of course, quite aware that Unfortunately there are a number of Hobbits of the Poorer Sort who do not have their Letters. However, as they will not be Reading these words, I do not feel there is much to Say to them on this Subject!)
As I said before, Children during the early years of childhood are biddable and affectionate. Nevertheless they are not perfect, and Misbehaviors will arise.
An Important thing is to teach a Child to disport him or her self in a Seemly Fashion when in public. As faunts, they should already have learned the Rudiments of Courtesy, and now they need to be taught true Manners.
It is already expected that they will say “Please” and “Thank you”. “At your Service” may be lisped by the youngest faunt when introduced. But now they should learn the niceties of Introductions: to say their full name, to bow or curtsey, and to say “At your Service and your Family’s”. In addition, they should learn the proper way of introducing others.
This means they must begin to learn the Family Genealogy. For of course, the first thing that anyone wants to know when introduced to a new Acquaintance is to Whom that Acquaintance is Related.
By the time a child is nine, or ten at the latest, they should be easily able to Introduce a Cousin of whatever Degree. For example:
“Master Longfoot, may I present to you Pogo Sandhole, my first cousin once removed upon my Mother’s side, and my third cousin upon my Father’s side.”
After “Pogo” has acknowledged the Introduction, then the Introducer should properly say:
“Pogo, this is Master Tobold Longfoot, who is the uncle on his father’s side, of our friend Bingo Longfoot.”
Such niceties are not too difficult for children to learn. It is good for Adults, when they Encounter a child who successfully accomplishes this Nicety, to praise him or her on having Good Manners and being Polite. And nothing encourages Parents so much as a compliment on the Good Behavior of their Offspring.
Table manners are another area in which children will need to learn more than the simple Rudiments. As I plan to cover this Most Important subject in more depth in a later chapter, I shall say little here, except that where Children are concerned Appetite can often overcome even a Shy and Diffident Nature. Squabbles over who gets the last sweet on the plate, or attempts to get more than one’s Fair Share are perfectly Natural. As mentioned in the last chapter, a Parent serving the plates can solve some of this. But it will not be of assistance when the Family is eating in public, or are Guests in someone else’s Home. Such offenses must be dealt with firmly and immediately, and the most effective Discipline is to send the child Away from the Table. Missing the rest of the meal will be a Severe Warning, and will have immediate results. And while it is harsh, it is nevertheless Appropriate to punish a child who does not show proper respect for his or her Food to withhold it. But, I must stress, only the remainder of that particular meal should be missed.
Furthermore, the withholding of Food should never be used to Punish for Any Other Offense that is not directly related to Food. A child who breaks a vase, or gives his or her parent Cheek should Never be punished by doing without Food. Instead a time of Reflection in an isolated room for older children, or in a Corner for the younger ones, is far more effective.
There is, of course, the question of Thrashing a Child. I acknowledge that it is Every Parent’s Right to use such Discipline as they see fit, but from my long observation, it seems to me that Thrashing is of very little Use, and its only Result is to make the child fearful of the Parent.
For a few children, such Punishment may work, yet I deem that some other way might have been found equally effective. For particularly recalcitrant children, the Parent may find him or her self obliged to Thrash the child more severely than they wish. This results in the Parent anguishing over having hurt the child, and the child, while suffering the physical effects of the punishment, may feel a sort of secret Victory over having goaded his or her Parent into such Drastic Action.
The only thing to be said for Thrashing is that it is Soon Over. Some children actually prefer it for that reason alone. I have myself heard more than one lad, enduring a punishment of several days without seeing his friends, or doing some onerous job of work, say that he wished he had been Thrashed instead.
That alone should be enough to make any Parent Wary of using such punishment.
For the most part, a Punishment should Fit the Offense. As has been stated before, isolation is an excellent Punishment. Another is to give the child a set of particularly Unpleasant Duties. Whatever Punishment a Parent chooses should not be beyond the child’s abilities to carry out.
While the Parent is the foremost Elder in his or her child’s life, it must not be forgotten that on occasion Others with a claim to interest in the child’s Well-Being may need to administer Discipline. If a Grandparent, Aunt, Uncle or Senior Cousin notices a child misbehaving it is his or her Duty to Act, and the Parent should support their Actions. If the Parent deems the punishment unduly harsh, or feels that there is some mitigating factor in their child’s behavior, then they should take their Concern to the other Adult in Private. By no means should the Child see signs of dissent among the important Adults in his or her life. And the Parent who will never admit that their darling would do such a thing is only doing the child harm.
A child will never learn the importance of Family if Respect is not shown *to* all its members *by* all its members. Remember that Family is Foremost.
By the age of twelve, children should be considered old enough to play among one another Unsupervised by Adults. Older friends and cousins are enough supervision for jaunts afield, and for play close to Home, they should not need to be watched every moment.
A word here should be said to those who may find themselves Observing a child who is Not Their Own misbehaving. If one is not a Family Member, then one’s best Course of Action is to seize the child and march him or her Home and return the offender to his or her Parents. For this purpose an ear or the back of the collar is an effective means of assuring that the miscreant accompanies one. Thrashing or otherwise punishing a child Not of One’s Own Family could have Unpleasant repercussions.
In spite of certain Challenges, this is, I feel the most delightful Stage of Childhood. Gone are the days of constant Vigilance and worry, the days of carrying and cleaning Messes, yet the Child’s First Thoughts are still of his or her Mother and Father. He or she has not yet reached the stage when the Temptations to Mischief and Adventure begin to make themselves Felt.
However, such a stage cannot last Forever. As the child approaches the age of thirteen, they wish to be much with their Friends. The Company of Mother and Father will be far less Congenial.
This is, for some reason, far more pronounced in lads than in lasses. Lads of this age tend to be Much Together, and to shun the company of lasses, even sisters or cousins with whom they have previously played together amiably.
And lads are far more prone to Mischief. As Children enter their Teens, their Appetite increases. Children who had previously been content with three servings at Mealtimes will be wanting four or more, and will often be hungry between Meals. Lasses often have legitimate opportunities to Assuage such hunger--they will often have Duties in the Kitchen or Garden which gives them the right to Nibble on Food that is not needed for a Proper Meal.
Lads, however, seem to like a Challenge. From their teens through their tweens, they are not to be Trusted when it comes to the Larder or Garden. A wise Parent plans for this, and lays in as much Extra Provender as the Family can reasonably Afford. It is also wise to teach the child to Forage. The knowledge of where to find wholesome wild Mushrooms, or nuts and berries or other fruits can help to still the rumbling stomach, and in Times of Want, can prove invaluable, as those whose Memory reaches back to the Fell Winter can attest. For families who live in the countryside, teaching lads to set a snare is useful. Stones are always ready to hand, and squirrel or coney is always a welcome addition to the family cookpot. And lasses as well as lads can learn to Fish. Angling is an ancient and Noble Sport, as well as providing a nice Trout or Perch for supper.
At about age sixteen a Child is ready for a change in his or her education. For the children of the Lesser Families, this may mean beginning to consider an Apprenticeship, or to begin Training for the Family Business. In the Great Families, it is time for seeking out the Family Tutor, and setting the child more challenging and difficult Lessons.
A child’s Duties should also increase. Idle hands soon work Mischief, and so the busier a child is kept the better. Setting him or her to watching after younger Siblings or Cousins is often an ideal Responsibility. The knowledge that the younger ones are Depending on him or her makes a difference. It steadies a child to have to set a Good Example, and even if their Natural Affection and Protectiveness does not serve as a deterrent, the knowledge that Little Brother or Sister is a witness often will. However, keep an eye out for signs that the Example being set is, indeed, a Good one, and that the younger child is not being led into Mischief as well. Children who suddenly stop talking and laughing when an Adult enters the room are almost always Up to Something.
By the time a child approaches the tweens, at about eighteen or nineteen, they should have a Thorough Knowledge of the Family History and Genealogy, and a firm grasp of the niceties of Manners. A child of this age should be able to receive a Guest at the Door properly, and to serve a Meal which he or she has made. A Parent should also be able to entrust the child of this age with Errands, such as going to the shops on his or her own--with a List, and the proper Amount of Coin. Do not, however make the mistake of overburdening the child--he or she can only carry so much after all.
Questions often asked about the childhood and teen years:
What if the child does not seem to wish to leave faunthood behind?
Some children are Fearful and Shy of facing the challenges of growing older. Be gentle and coaxing, and lure them with the Privileges that will accompany the new Duties--for example, being able to stay up later at bedtime, or being able to help in the Kitchen. These will appeal to the child and help draw him or her out.
What if the child is subject to teasing by others?
All children enjoy a certain amount of Banter and Teasing. But it should be of a fond and gentle sort, and should not always be aimed at the same child. If you suspect your child is being Picked On, it is a good idea to monitor his or her Companions. If necessary a word to the offending Child’s Parents may be in order.
That said, it is sometimes best to let the children sort it out among themselves.
Occasionally some children are actually Bullies, who enjoy making other smaller and younger children Miserable. These children are rare, and it is a Sad Fact that frequently their parents Spoil them, and refuse to believe Ill of them. The only solution is to avoid them whenever possible, and forbid your child to play with them.
What if a child does not like Lessons?
Most children do not like Lessons. It is difficult for a child to be cooped up indoors and studying Books when all is lovely Outdoors. Keep Lessons short in duration--no more than three hours a few times a week at most.
It is only the rare child who truly loves Lessons; that child may actually need to be Pried away from his or her Books and sent Outdoors for fresh air and exercise.
What if a child shows an interest in Adventure?
A mere Interest in Adventure at this age is not necessarily a Bad Thing. Children love Tales, and most Tales are History of a sort. They may play at these Adventures and pretend to be Heroes. This I think is Good, as it may help to get such longings out of their system, and help them to Settle Down when they grow older.
And most Tales show us that other Races: Men, Elves and Dwarves are more suited by Temperament and Stature for Adventuring. With a certain Notable Exception, Hobbits who leave to find Adventure never Return. This alone should eventually serve as a Cautionary.
Hobbits are not meant by Nature to have Adventures, or to go wandering far from Family and Home. While Children may find it exciting to hear such Tales at the hearthside, or to Play at them in the meadow, when Bedtime comes they will be just as glad to be snuggled warm in their own beds.
Of course, certain of the Great Families are Plagued with the Occasional Adventurer, but most Respectable Hobbits take no note of it.
Childhood passes all too soon. Parents should take every Opportunity to delight in their Children, for they will need the Memories of Happier Times to help them find their way through a child’s tumultuous Tweenaged Years.
*AUTHOR’S NOTE: This chart may be useful when trying to imagine the ages of the children Miss Dora is writing about.
|<< Back||Next >>|
|Home Search Chapter List|