When we make an object with our hands, we frequently notice that the most care is needed as we near its completion. A false stroke of the brush will change an angel into a demon, a misguided blow of the mallet will shiver the statue into fragments: so, in the work which attempts to form a noble womanhood, all the efforts of years of training will be marred or rendered ineffectual, if the right influence, proper occupation, and wholesome encouragement are not given to a girl in the period which borders on womanhood. We wait for the rose to open; but if we allow the atmosphere to become impure, or otherwise prevent its development, its life will stagnate, it will refuse to give out odor, and the world will lose that beauty it might have enjoyed.
Susceptible as girls are, vigorous, affectionate, cheerful and aspiring, if they are deprived suddenly of good influence and encouragement, the very conditions of their growth will be removed, and they, like the rose, will shut their lives within their lives.
There is no time in a girl's life so neglected, and yet so dependent upon sympathy, as that when she is first thrown upon her own efforts. Too old to be any longer led, she is not old enough to be left without guidance. This time usually comes when she has finished the ordinary school course and finds herself, all at once, waiting, either for an entrance into what is called society, or for an opportunity to earn her living.
There is a certain lightness of heart, carelessness, abandon, maybe, about girls while they are still in school, which is both delightful and natural, however provoking to teachers. Every thing is very bright now; and if the girl learns her lessons, is obedient, and tries to think, she believes that somehow things will all come around right with time. All at once she is confounded. She awakes in the morning, and finds that school does not keep to-day,—no, nor to-morrow! What is to be done? Going and coming, which get to be more going and coming; dish-washing, which daily increases into dish-washing; or ennui, which degenerates into melancholy, ensue. Life is not what the school-girl supposed. Six months of it make her older than a whole school-year.
Girls look upon graduation day as a grand portal through which they are to enter into a palace glistening with splendor; but, lo! when they reach that portal, they see only a very low gate-way, while a hedge, thorny and high, shuts out the palace. How to get through? Rather, how are their elders to make them see that, with the patience and energy of the prince in the story, they can cause the hedge to turn to roses, and open wide before them?
A girl needs, first of all, encouragement. She should not be told what things are to oppose her, if she has ambition to excel in a certain direction, but what things are to help her to attain her purpose. She wants praise, but not flattery. A girl knows when she is flattered sooner than a boy. If conceit is engendered from praise, that will do no harm....