Thursday, 24 December, 1829

Christmas once more is fast approaching, which could have been known, in this place by any individual, without the knowledge of months, by the immense call for baked things and the abundance of wafer cakes in circulation.

It would appear that custom in this place has a force far superior to reflection, if indeed they do reflect at all. This may be owing and no doubt is, to earliness of engrafting these in the mind and fastening them without the least innovation through every period of life. It is difficult to impress on the young mind, the ideas of age and experience so as to make them sensible that your advice is calculated to enhance their pleasure and unless salutary precepts and good example be frequently and constantly repeated to them, they are too apt utterly to disregard all admonition calculated to add to the sum of their happiness and respectability. This is plain to be observed in those which have been permitted to grow up with every desire gratified, in infancy, childhood, and youth, and have not been subject to timely and judicious discipline, from the mistaken notion of hard-heartedness. How many parents do we hear exclaim, I cannot be so cruel as to punish my child? But to me this seems to be the most cruel doctrine a parent can advance, because it permits the child to indulge in things calculated to be a detriment as long as life continues. It is the very method to make an unhappy and discontented individual, as it teaches to indulge mere desire regardless of consequence. And if this is not gratified, disquietude is produced. It is impossible, as well as improper, in our intercourse with man that we can have all we may desire. We must learn to discriminate and deny ourselves many things; and I think it is one of the many duties of a parent to teach in infancy their children all that is just and proper, and if words will not do and they be satisfied, then use the necessary force and make them do as they ought to. Parents here suffer their offsprings (or many of them) to grow up with uncultivated minds and unsubdued wills. At last they arrive to the years of maturity, unprepared for any kind of business, averse to any kind of application for any length of time, pleased with every new thing, fond of change, and as soon as any course or kind of employment becomes familiar, abandon it, however aludable it may be or lucrative the result. Place them at what you will, before they have made sufficient proficiency to carry it on properly, it is abandoned, forsaken and thrown aside for something more novel because untried. Thus, many people go on perhaps through life, or until many and repeated experiences admonish themselves diligently to its execution. Retrospection, sad and gloomy, now will haunt the mind. They now look back with horror and sorrow and despise the unmanly impatience which prompted them to be always changing until youth and meridian of life had been wasted and nothing accomplished. Now it is too late to retrieve the lost and vanished opportunities; no hope remains, and thus they descend in sorrow and misery to the grave and are forgotten by all surviving and all for the want of decision in the parent.

My mind has been much disturbed by the conduct of A. Hauser, my wife's brother, for some time past. I see in him the exact picture of thousands, no application, no industry, no attention to any kind of employment, and so he is permitted to spend his time in idle inactivity and his mother often telling him but never insists and forces the accomplishment on any particular. And if anyone indicates his want of decision, she takes his part and thus upholds him in his conduct. He is now about thirteen years old and has never been taught to do the most ordinary trifle, not even to wait on himself or make a fire. He has been sent to school, but as may be supposed, learned nothing of consequence. He has went over many sums but cannot tell a single rule in arithmetic, nor do the most simple sum in addition. Whenever he is admonished at school, he is obstinate, the same as at home, and instead of doing better, would do worse. Thus he has proceeded and thus he is proceeding, doing and learning nothing. His father died when he was quite young and his mother has not fortitude sufficient to punish him or permit him to be punished, saying he has no father and she does not know how long she may live, and consequently cannot correct him. These considerations are emphatically such as should produce a different course of procedure toward him, that he should be better prepared to meet those reverses he must meet in the course of life. It is most assuredly an incumbent duty on parents to prepare their offsprings to meet the various reverses and self-denials unavoidable in our intercourse with mankind. Is it better to permit him to go on in his present course until he has no parent and then be forced by strangers to follow a more judicious course, by those who can have no parental feelings toward him? No. A parent must rise above such improper and injudicious feelings and teach a child while young the way it should go while under your control and direction. Learn it to subdue all improper desires and if this can be done by mild means, it is so much the better, but if severe means are necessary, then use them effectually. Teach your children application, that they may be the better prepared to brave every difficulty that awaits them in future life; fortify the mind for trials and disappointments and when the silent tomb shall enclose your mortal part and your spirit be wafted by the angels of peace to everlasting happiness, your children will bless the Father and Mother that thus directed and taught them the value of time and the great importance of using it properly in preparing for future usefulness while they were young.

My brother-in-law has been living with us for some time, and I have endeavored to impress his mind with the necessity of forming regular established habits of industry. Have endeavored to explain to him the consequences of idleness and indolence; and have endeavored to portray to him the pleasure of a well-directed and improved mind. I have entreated him to become attentive and industrious and have exerted all my ingenuity deprived of authority, to induce him to learn. But all in vain. He remains the same; unpleasant, peevish, and disagreeable as ever. He would like to know many things, but has not the fortitude and application to search for them; offended at everything in the least opposed to his fancy. Indeed it is disagreeable to be with him because nothing just pleases him. If he would like to learn, I should be pleased to have him iwht me. But there is no pleasure where he is. I hope, however, that time will improve him and that he will yet acknowledge he is or has been in error. And my wish is that he may do well. But time and the force of circumstances must do it.

One disagreeable occurrence more I cannot pass over unnoticed, which occurred some time ago or was told to me months past, as it tends to prove a principle I have long believed to govern man: that we are creatures of circumstance more than any settled principle of reflection have ever produced, and that while we are under one set of circumstances and see others do wrong, we speak in severe terms of the actor. But if things are propitious and are become involved in a similar situation, attended by similar opportunities, we are ready to act those very scenes we have once deprecated and imagined ourselves incapable of acting. No, I will still go further and declare that I have seen people performing and doing those very things they were at the same moment doing themselves. People seem to forget former situations and reservations and even declarations, particularly if changes have been propitious. Mr. Abraham Conrad, stepfather to my wife, married the widow of John H. Hauser. At the time he married her she had three children; and there had been a superabundance allotted to her from her former husband's estate and many things not necessary, such as cupboards, chests, beds, and furniture, and kitchen furniture; one horse, and besides there were a grown Negro man, woman, and one boy sufficiently able to earn his living and a piece of land on Muddy Creek. The use of all these he had and the labor of the oldest boy and my wife, just for the boarding and clothing of these children. And before he was married, she says he promised to use them as a father. But instead of doing so, he has abused or treated in many instances unfeelingly, and now the estate is to be settled, he will not even be guardian for the youngest child. He will do nothing, only what his obligation in writing has compelled him to do. He says he will claim no portion in the land, but will hold a child's part in the slaves. He will give up none of the other property.