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Intelligent Parentage - Favorable and Adverse Conditions

VI. Persons who use alcoholic stimulants, opium, and tobacco in any form, cannot keep a steady ner vous system, or give a strong one to their children. All physicians know that alcohol and tobacco in their various forms rouse the passions, and in some persons of nervous temperament, who are inclined to much head trouble, they are stirred to a temporarily insane activity. This is equally true in men and women. I have never seen a child of a moderate drinker who had quiet, steady nerves, and I can to-day point to some whole families of boys and girls who show every shade of departure from good nervous balance, —intense excitability, recklessness, or dullness, idiocy, and fixed drunkenness, appearing in their different members from such causes. If fathers give the best paternity possible to their children, it will not be too good; and how hard it is when they place cruel and needless burdens upon them ! The testimony of excellent wives, whose husbands were temperate drinkers and users of tobacco, is, without exception, that after these stimulants were given up, and the nervous disturbance from the struggle was over, irri tability of temper and erotic passional excitability were greatly lessened. I do not think physicians, until late in life, realize the baneful influences that come through heredity from stimulation and opium taking. A mother, now nearly eighty years of age, gave to every one of her children the desire for stimulants. Paregoric or laudanum was prescribed for the nausea of pregnancy, and before her younger children were born she was a confirmed opium-eater. Three of the children died early, who were nervous in the extreme, opium seeming to be the only thing that would quiet them. Of the children that remain, all use opium, alcoholic stimulants, or both. Years ago that mother said to me, with tears, " Do tell mothers not to use opium in any form. I did not know what the drops were when I first took them; but I could not keep up without them, and the doctor said they would not hurt me." The procreative act at periods when there is great disturbance of the mental and nervous equilibrium almost necessitates an unfortunate result to the child. The apprehension coming with or following some great calamity, the struggle with some bad habit, a state of selfish, bitter, unforgiving strife, either within or without the home, render the individuals for the time unfit to be parents. I cannot withhold one or two illustrative instances. A father and mother near the meridian of life, both estimable and worthy people, agreed to leave off the habit of using snuff and tobacco in all its forms. The struggle was con scientiously made and successfully carried out. In the midst of this prolonged trial, when both were dis turbed and unnerved by the loss of the accustomed stimulus, their youngest son was conceived. From infancy he was very irritable and nervous, craved stimulation and excitement, tobacco seeming more delicious than the most appetizing food. It was well that with this tendency he received a good balance of conscience and will, which saved him. Had his life been given a year later, the inheritance of full physical and intellectual power would have exceeded that of any of his brothers and sisters. One of the most irascible and unreasonable women I ever knew came under my care soon after the birth of her third child, and was then, as she had ever been, a torment to her self, and a terror in her home. Her brothers and sis ters, elder and younger, were not unusually organized. Her parents were persons of wealth and position, her mother being a woman of high spirit, fond of society and its pleasures. In a financial crisis, wealth, home, and all but the father's honor was sacrificed. The chagrin and disappointment of the wife was extreme : she secluded herself, and in bitterness of spirit wept and railed against her husband, her own sad life, and the cruelty of an unjust providence. During this

dark period the fact of prospective motherhood became known to the wretched woman. At this her rage knew no bounds; she threatened to take her own life and that of her unborn child, and tried, though ineffectually, to murder it, this state of feeling continuing during gestation and nursing. After a time, in a better condition of things, the mother re gained a fair balance of happiness, but saw her daughter, thus unfortunately born, exhibit, year after year, the unreasoning violence of temper and action which was but a repetition of her own. One of the peculiar features of my patient, the daughter, was the absence of any regret for her remarkable beha vior. Her mind was clear upon all intellectual and ordinary practical matters, and she was in some re spects brilliant, but was monomaniacally selfish and unreasonable, avowing hatred for her children, but making them alternately the subjects of pride and in vective. How far different it might have been with this unfortunate woman, had her mother, in quiet submission to God, accepted life's discipline patiently, and tried to learn the much-needed lesson of confi dence and peace, saying honestly, " What wilt thou have me to do," and " Thy will be done." In thus making the best of all circumstances, a wonderful helping power would have come into her heart, which would have saved a train of untold sorrow to that mother and her descendants.

VII. There should be no parents who cannot un derstand what it means to bring the fullest affection they are capable of feeling to each other, and this state of heart should be carefully cherished. Many do not understand that this love dies without mutual keeping, and is not a hardy plant, which will grow through the heat of unreasoning passion or the chill of selfishness without careful nurture. True love is a deep-rooted principle which would not do a wrong to the object loved, and must be kept rooted in obe dience to the divine law of love, first to God, and to our neighbor as ourselves. Both must watch and keep the altar-fire upon their own hearts burning, for feeling, fancy, or magnetic influence cannot take its place, and those who rest upon these for domestic happiness will be disappointed. In my intimate ac quaintance with many hundred families I have seen beautiful approximations to perfected love in home life in not a few instances, and its fruition is ever joy and peace. The physical attraction binding the twain as one flesh is as sacred as life itself, should be thought of ever with honor, and both. husband and wife should seek to give it habitually the happiest rational exercise. The habit of constant and full affection will alone make it possible to give children the best vitality. The intensity of affectionate inter est with which both partake in the genesic office, and the vigor of the parents at the time, determines most powerfully the native strength as well as the beauty of feature and form of the child. The common saying that illegitimate children are often the best endowed has some foundation in truth; for when such a life is the result of one or two all-absorbing procreative acts, the parents have given the fulness of their lives as they were at the time. I have never failed to observe in illegitimate children, however vigorous and strong in body, far more intensity in impulse of all the passions than moral restraint and self-control, and with a vigorous, intense nature this is a most unfor tunate bias, making a well-directed, useful life diffi cult and doubtful.

No accident of vice need ever put to shame the privilege of parents to give the fullest gift of beauty and strength they can to their children in an honor able Christian marriage.

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children, life, mother, parents and nervous