Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
The Influence of the Early Years
My second child, aged four, is so quiet that I am afraid he is sick. My husband tells me not to worry, that his zest for life will return little by little, and so forth. Lately I have been watching him more and I fear that the influence of his first years was not good for him. When he was two, my mother-in-law came to live with us. Since she was ill, the little one was constantly reprimanded so he would be quiet. My mother-in-law is now in a nursing home. Since her departure I notice the child has no desire to play. The older child, aged ten, was not affected by the presence of my mother-in-law who was very likeable. But I am worried about Jean, who has become lackadaisical, apathetic.
I am happy to tell you that our family is consecrated to Mary and that we also belong to the Parish Center of the Army of Mary, founded about a year ago. What union with the others! It is impossible to describe. One must live it to understand it.
To be consecrated to Mary is to experience the purest and deepest happiness. When families unite to form a Parish Center, things become more and more promising, for they make Mary present in the midst of everyone; they make her their sovereign. We have only to follow her and she will lead us to a secure haven. It is she who governs and she proves this in an obvious fashion. If only we knew all the graces attached to this consecration. Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort is most eloquent on this subject.
You are worried about your son, Jean. Perhaps he is lonesome for his grandmother. However, it is not normal for a child to be so quiet, so calm, hardly ever moving. By his very nature, he cannot be that way. Normally he should have boundless energy, touching everything, always on the move, aping the gestures and actions of adults.
To suppress the child’s need for activity, to show initiative, independence, could lead to his becoming timid, uncouth, lifeless, lacking in resourcefulness. For a child, to play is to work. It is in playing that the child expresses what he is, even if in doing so he is obviously prone to making a lot of noise – to the despair of his parents. The parents must be judicious, but not excessive, in moderating this need to be active.
The child needs smiles and approval; perhaps this was missing when you were all occupied with the sick grandmother. So it is high time you spent a good deal more time with him, initiating him into all that could interest him. Do not buy a lot of toys, unless they are educational. Use moderation in giving gifts. It has been proven that children with but little, in this respect, later become more vigorous and tenacious than children overwhelmed by all they want.
As a result of the fact they did not have much, they learned to observe, to reflect and, with the aid of their imagination, found in the little they had available, a thousand ways of expressing themselves. As much as you can, surround him with what is beautiful. Let the milieu in which he lives be simple and bright. Carefully select picture books for him; there are some that are real masterpieces at the same price as others. Make use of nature to introduce him to all that is beautiful: the splendor of flowers, the variety of colors and forms, etc. There is no better school than direct contact with nature. The taste for beauty acts on the character. It fosters the blossoming of the soul, a development which is a vital force in directing one’s life towards the unchanging Good and Beautiful.
Lamartine attributes his taste for and love of nature to his mother’s influence. “Without her,” he said, “I would never have been able to describe the creation which lay before my eyes. Her soul was so luminous, so alive with color, so warm, that she never left shadows or coldness behind her. In teaching me, little by little, to understand all things, she made me, at the same time, love all things.”
(Review, “L’Armée de Marie”, volume III, no. 9)