“Know thyself” is an old and wise maxim.
Did you ever have a friend with whom it was hard to keep acquainted? You parted on good terms and thought of her as a friend all the time — but when again you met, you found that once more you must become acquainted. I have had such experiences and found them unsatisfactory. I would have a friend be a friend all the time.
Nellie confesses that she often cries herself to sleep because no one understands her; while Marie acknowledges that she sometimes gets very angry with her mother because she cannot make Mother understand what she wants. It seems that everyone, even your mother, fails to comprehend the importance of the very things that to you, seem the most momentous. It is especially grievous to you that your mother does not understand — when you used to think she knew and understood everything. She appears to be getting out of touch with young folks!
It may be a strange way of putting it — but your real trouble is that you have lost acquaintance with almost all that is around you.
First, you are not acquainted with yourself. You change so fast that you are a stranger to yourself. You cannot keep up with your notions. You want a certain thing, and before your desire can be fully granted — you want something else! It seems to you that nobody really tries to please you, and you get restless and dissatisfied. You think that everyone is crossing you, when you are really crossing yourself!
Watch the changes in your body. The dress you liked so well last summer — did not fit you at all when you got it out this spring. You looked almost comical in it, and you wonder why you ever liked it at all. The dress is just as it was — but you have changed! You have grown taller and taken on a new bodily form. Clothes must be cut by a different pattern now to fit you.
You are changing just as fast in your likes and dislikes. Mother has been planning a special pleasure for you, possibly has begun your new dress. She explains what she is going to do and how she is going to do it; and when you have a chance to speak, you break her plans all to pieces. She has not pleased you at all, though Mother knows very well that what she intended to do was the very thing you wanted only a short while ago. She looks at you perplexed, and you are almost angry that she should have supposed you would have desired such a thing. Perhaps you speak pertly, and Mother reproves you sharply and calls you an ungrateful girl. You go away and cry real, hot tears — because you are so misunderstood. You, my dear, have changed and do not know it. It is not Mother — but the girl who lives in your body that so misunderstands you!
When I was about fourteen, Mother was making me a new dress, and I wanted the upper sleeves made very full at the hand and open from the elbow down. They were very ugly and very unhandy, and always falling into everything, and it was winter and very cold — but I wanted my sleeves made that way no matter what was said to me. Mother set her lips together and said, “Well, you shall have them your way then.” Her look called me to my senses, and I began to back down — but she said, “No, you shall have them just as you want them,” and I had to drag and dribble those sleeves around until the dress was worn out. I found out that it was just a foolish notion, which lasted but a short while, that I wanted such sleeves, and that my real self despised them. Mother knew that all the time.
I am not blaming girls for being changeable — but I want them to see that they are changing — and not to expect everyone else to change with them!
Again the girl finds herself feeling very awkward. It seems to her, that she is always splashing or spilling something and bringing down upon her head admonitions that irritate her. The fact is, that her arms and hands have grown so fast that she cannot measure the length they will reach, nor the force with which they will seize a thing. She has failed to keep acquainted with her own body. She need not be discouraged if she has trouble with awkwardness, for everyone who is growing fast has the same experience. Father himself would be just as awkward — if he were suddenly to gain a few inches in his height.
It is hard for even a mother to keep acquainted with growing children. While she may misunderstand to some extent the present whim or mind of the boy and girl, she does understand conditions much better than they do and can see when their desires and impulses would lead them into wrong.
A girl is not able “to be her own boss” until she has passed these changing years. Not until then, can she look upon things with a settled gaze. It would be very hard to judge a garden if one went by it on a run — and it is just as hard to judge as to what is best, as long as these swift, changing years are happening. If the girl can only be patient and obedient until she gets fully acquainted with herself, she will save both her own heart and her dear parents many hours of trial and anxiety.
Strive to keep acquainted with your parents and teachers, so that you can understand their point of view. Look at things from their side. Because they do not agree with you, do not go off pouting and keep to yourself — but listen and really try to see. I could not keep acquainted with anyone, if I never sought her company; or if when I was with her, I always insisted on having my way. And you cannot keep acquainted with Mother if you are always contending for your own way. When you contend with anyone, you come up against their most unlikable side; and if you are continually contending with Mother about this and that, you will find yourself thinking only of her in most unkind ways. Just a little of the deference and courtesy given to strangers, would help you better to understand your mother.
Mother has many things to think about, and her mind is often full of perplexing problems which you know nothing about. It may be that just at the time when you are most persistent about something or other, your contention is the last straw which wears her out, and she answers you more sternly than you think she ought. You feel abused and hampered. You think of Mother as being unkind and possibly unjust. She thinks of you as being stubborn and ungrateful. Both of you would see things differently — if you took time to keep acquainted.
Keep acquainted with Father also. Too often he is not counted into his daughter’s life at all, other than to provide the money she needs. He is a great blessing in the girl’s life, if she will only give him a chance to know her. He is busy and can hardly be expected to take the initiative in a hearty acquaintance; but he will appreciate the kind advances of his young daughter, if she comes to him smiling and seeking to know him.
To keep acquainted with herself or her parents, a girl must be considerate and thoughtful. She cannot give way to her every imagination or whim — but must consider what is best for her and for others.
When a girl is just entering her teens, she must watch carefully indeed if she keeps from being selfish. So much is happening in her life just then, such great changes taking place — that she is almost certain to become self-centered and to think always of herself first. It is such a task for her to keep up with her thoughts and feelings and desires — that everybody else is forgotten. There is something about the tumultuous condition of her nature, that makes her see with crooked eyes — so that things are not in their right proportions. Just a little reasoning on her part will help her to see that she is making a mistake.
It is selfishness that would make a girl think it a trial to help with the ironing, because it might hurt her pretty hands — when her mother has to work hard all day long. Or, again, it is selfishness that would cause her to spend a whole hour dressing her hair in the morning before she is off to school, leaving her no time to help with the dishes. And when evening comes and someone must stay with the little ones while the rest go out — it is selfishness if she feels abused when her turn comes.
It is selfishness that makes a girl think that she ought to have better clothes than her mother has, or that would have her want better things than her brothers and sisters possess. She has kept her mind so full of her own desires that she has forgotten that others have wants or rights. It is the most cruel kind of selfishness, that will cause a girl to speak crossly and saucily to her parents — when they must refuse her some of her notions. Those who have done most for her of all the world, who are working week in and week out for her happiness, who are denying themselves many pleasures that her life may be more full — they who because in their wisdom see that she should be denied —they must have her become cross with them!
The great foe of these years is selfishness, and the girl who comes to the most complete womanhood learns soon to fight it with all her might.