Home Influence The Best
A Correspondent Replies
M ArIAM, I have read with some Concern your article in last week's Woman's Page, entitled "Children Who Live in Flats," and it seems to me to raise serious problems.
The first and most vital is. of course, one that concerns Catholics deeply, namely the importance of the home; and anything that even tends to minimize it would appear, to say the least of it, to be a grave mistake.
Now I do not for a moment doubt that a system of nurseries such as those at Dolphin Square offers many very great advantages to busy or tired parents who have no time for their children; and with such homes as these it is doubtless far better that the children should he properly taken care of in a nursery where at least they are physiCally safe.
A Horrible Idea
To me, however, the whole idea is frankly distasteful.. I may be exaggerating, but it is in my mind inextricably bound up with those modern bogies, state-controlled homes, and even Communism. For what is it• hut the first step towards a collective system of upbringing?
Certainly your correspondent says " Dol phin Square . . is admittedly a • luxury product, and therefore the fact that it has these nursery quarters where parents may leave their children to play in safety is not going immediately to affect a very large proportion of the population." This is a momentary safeguard, but she goes on to say: " Today's luxury becomes tomorrow's necessity." And here, to my mind, lies the danger, which must be checked at its very
source. It doea make lazy parents, because it is the easiest way out, and the majority of people will always take the easiest way.
There is nowadays anincreasing tendency to talk about hygiene. This is, of course, good, provided it is not carried to excess. But the great danger lies in laying undue emphasis on the bodily welfare at the expense of the welfare of the soul. All too often the modern nursery is run as if it were a nursing home, and the children are hedged round with prohibitions and treated as if they were little invalids which under normal circumstances they certainly are not!
I know mothers who won't even kiss their children because they are so afraid of germs! It is really rather pitiful to think of the sort of grow-up people these children will become. They will then probably need, according to modern notions, the services of expert psycho-analysts. How much more, then, will a communal nursery system affect their normal growth! Here there is no time to give them the individual attention they need. and at far too early an age they find out that the world is an unsympathetic place; all of which is very damaging to the sense of security they ought to have if they are to develop normally.
They certainly have the companionship of other children of their own age. But this is not enough. It is possibly quite the wrong companionship. They may come into contact with children who have been brought up with different standards from their own, children who laugh and joke about things they have been taught to love and respect. Companionship is good for them, but their friends must be properly chosen by the parents.
If this is true of any child, how much truer is it of Catholic children who because they are Catholics are in the minority in England today? There is all the more reason why their friends should be Catholics like themselves.
Again, the children they may meet in such nurseries may come from homes where the parents disagree and are even divorced. Children cannot help hearing and repeating things, and they might have a very bad influence on their companions.
The Duties of Parents
Finally, the problem can be studied from the point of view of the parents. The Pope has stressed over and over again the importance of home influence, and the duty of the parents to see to it that the children ale properly brought up in a good home. St. Augustine, when writing of marriage, puts the children first: Proles, fides, sacramenturn, and this phrase is quoted over and over again in the encyclicals.
According to Christian social teaching, the family is of the first importance; and any shirking of their duties by parents jeopardizes the safety and well-being of the family as a whole.
A Bad Tendency
These are some of the reasons why l am against the communal nursery system, even on a small scale, since it is the beginning of a much more deplorable tendency to deprive the family of its natural rights, and the children of the all-important sense of security while they are young which a good homes gives them.
I remain, etc., MARGERY ALLEN.