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Home life should be happy. Yet it requires thought, care and effort, to make it so. We sometimes forget that love's lessons have to be learned. We think they should come naturally, and so perhaps they should. But the fact is, that it takes a great deal of self-restraint, of patience, of thoughtfulness — to learn and live out the lesson of love.
There are hundreds of homes in which there is love and where great sacrifices are cheerfully made; and yet hearts are starving there for love's daily bread. There is a tendency in too many homes, to smother all of life's tenderness, to suppress it, to choke it back. There are homes where expressions of affection are almost unknown. There are husbands and wives between whom love's converse has settled into the lowest conventionalities. There are parents who never kiss their children after they are babies, and who discourage in them, as they grow up — all longings for caresses and marks of affection.
Mary Lowe Dickinson tells this story: A little child of eight was very ill and thought to be dying. In after years, all memory of the suffering faded — but she said: "I owe to that sickness the knowledge that my mother loved me, for she kissed me again and again, when no one else was there. That memory was the most precious treasure that I carried on into my womanhood, for until the night before I was married, I do not remember that she ever kissed me again. When she was old, I asked her why she never caressed or petted us as children, and she said, 'I thought it would prevent your being self-reliant. I knew I could not always be with you, and I did not want you to be dependent on my presence.' "
There is very much more of this lack of tenderness in homes than most people imagine. There are many homes in which the life goes on day after day, week after week, in the dreariest and coldest routine. Many children are cheated out of the manifestation of love, in the days when affectionateness would mean so much to them. Many timid girls and boys have grown almost to maturity believing that nobody ever loved them — because nobody has ever told them so.
There are chilled homes which could be warmed into love's richest glow in a little while, if only all the hearts in the household were to become affectionate in expression. Does the busy husband think that his weary wife would not care any longer for the caresses and marks of tenderness with which he used to thrill her heart? Let him return again — but for a month, to his old-time fondness, and then ask her if these youthful amenities are distasteful to her. Do parents really think that their grown-up children are too big to be petted, to be kissed at meeting and parting? Let them restore again for a time, something of the affectionateness of the early childhood days, and see if there is not a great secret of happiness in it. Many who are longing for richer home gladness, need only to pray for a springtime of love, with tenderness which is not afraid of affectionate expression.
We need never be afraid to speak our love at home, however careful we have to be outside, lest we foolishly seem to carry our heart on our sleeve. There is little danger of too much affectionateness in the family life. It needs all the tenderness we can possibly get into it. It will not make a boy soft and dependent, to love him and tell him you love him. We should make the morning good-byes, as we part at the breakfast table, kindly enough for final farewells — for they may indeed be final farewells. Many go out in the morning, who never come back at night. Therefore, when we separate even for a few hours — we should part with kindly words, with lingering pressure of the hand, lest we may never look again into each other's eyes. Tenderness in a home, is not childish weakness, a thing to be ashamed of — it is one of love's most sacred duties, one which never should be left out.
Here are some very practical counsels from a recent writer on the question of how to cultivate love in the home circle: "First, be willing to show the love which already exists. Is the husband and father silent and gloomy, withdrawn into himself, brooding, perhaps, over the fact that no matter how hard he tries, he never can meet the family demands? Show him that you know he is tired — that you love him for his constant effort, that you love him the same, even if he has failed to do all he had hoped to do. Show him how well and cheerfully you can get on with a little for this time, sure that the next time he will succeed. If you are his daughter, and have acquired the habit of thinking of him chiefly as the man from whom the money comes for things you need — then get out of that relation by planning to do, or get something for him. Find out his birthday, and begin to plan for that, a little gift from every child, a song sung for father, a little speech from his little son, a little fun which you can coax him to share in — it may mean a new life to him, because it means a new sense of how truly you love and believe in him."