Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Patience With Ideals

Patience with Ideals

By Helen A. Hawley

There is hardly a lesson which a wife and mother more needs to learn than to have patience with her ideals. The learning of this lesson will do as much as any one thing to smooth out the roughnesses of daily living. Someone has spoken of our ideals as tyrants. They may be tyrants, or they may be encouragers.
The young woman who marries has, as a rule, idealized her husband, and if she finds out soon that he is of common clay like the rest of the world, there comes a day when her happiness is in peril. Very few women can say what a wife once said to me. It was this: “I never have seen any faults in my husband which I did not see as plainly before I married him, and I have discovered many good qualities in him which I never knew before.” But she was a woman of remarkably clear brain and insight. It takes a patient love in a wife to sift the perfect from the imperfect in her husband’s make-up, if, indeed, there is any perfection yet to be found there, and to acknowledge the fact that, though he has not reached her ideal, he is surely on the road to it. It will be, also, a wholesome thought that perhaps she herself has not come up to his ideal, and thus the common sense, mutual forbearance, is attainable.
Doubtless the next disappointment is in her own housekeeping. She was to be the ideal housekeeper-no disorder, no dust, no anything which was not irreproachable. But her inexperience meets many failures, her two hands cannot do everything, she does not yet know “the fine art of slighting;” probably she thinks that would be a sin. Thus worry comes, and then irritability, and then a discontent which spreads to others. Here, again, there must be patience with the ideals, and the consciousness that they are not to be reached with a bound.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment comes when the wife and homemaker has her brood of children about her. Of course, they are to be ideal children, obedient, truthful, unselfish, not quarrelsome. And then, after all her instructions in truthfulness, Tommy tells a lie, Marion is greedily selfish, she finds the two boys fighting, and so on. It really seems as if her ideals has gone to smash, and it wouldn’t pay to gather up the fragments. A mother of a large family, who had given her children most careful training, once said to me, “It is discouraging to see that my children are no better than Louise,” mentioning a girl who was coming up in a rather hit-or-miss style. That mother was tempted to think that her careful training did not count; but it did count, as the after years plainly showed. There was, later on, a marked difference between her daughters and the girl who had been carelessly reared. To a mother who feels impatient over this failure to measure up to her ideals, there comes this wise word from a wise man: “How can a mother expect her children to be perfect, when she recalls her own childhood?” There is the encouragement, in a nutshell. As a child, she had her own little tempers, her small rebellions, her crossnesses, perhaps her fibbing; she can recall them distinctly, yet she has grown out of these disagreeable traits into a self-controlled, truthful woman. Why not believe that with proper, prayerful care, her children will do the same?
The road to ideals certainly does wind up hill all the way, but the ascent must be patient, gradual, one step at a time. Taken in this fashion, it becomes, not laborious, but exhilarating, by reasons of successive attainments.

-Mother's Magazine, December 1908

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