We are looking at the Parents’ Review article entitled Othello and Goose. This is an easy to read tale of a cat, Othello, and the household that dotes over him, attributing human characteristics to him as they go about their lives together.
One night, after a satisfying Christmas dinner, Othello is inadvertedly let into the cellar without his owner’s knowledge. Eventually, the error is recognized, but not before Othello has taken the opportunity to decadently dine on the leftover goose.
Merry, the young owner, is horrified – afraid her mother, Mrs. Mirth, will want to get rid of Othello because of the incident’s revealing the cat’s true character. She had always supposed the cat was honest but now the truth, that he is deceptive, has come to light.
After explaining the situation to Mrs. Mirth the household maid asks gingerly if she should whip the cat. Mrs. Mirth resolutely says the cat should not be whipped, that it would only be cruel to do so. For one, the time of the incident has long passed and the cat has completely forgotten. He would see no connection between the punishment and any of his doings. Secondly, he only acted in accordance with his nature. It was in good faith — he simply wanted some goose, so he went to get some.
The article ends with several wonderful reminders. Sometimes, children are punished when parents only consider the act without thinking of the thoughts or feelings behind the act. The author, Mrs. Firth, says two things that stand out to me:
Yet we some of us, whip our children for mistakes and errors which arise from their inexperience, and disappoint and grieve them by our displeasure when they have acted in good faith as far as their imperfect view of things would allow.
I would like to share with you a painful story from my own life. It still makes me feel terrible now and this was nearly 8 years ago. I had three children at the time. My youngest, a baby of a few months, was lying on the floor and my son, age 3 1/2, and I were looking at her. Suddenly, my son pulled her hair. I was shocked! “No!,” I shrieked. “We don’t pull a baby’s hair!” Seconds later, he pulled it again. My mother bear instinct snapped and I slapped his hand. Not being someone who generally used physical discipline, my son was shocked and heartbroken and started to sob, “I was just trying to help her get the bit out of her hair, Mommy!” Looking down, I saw the little bit of fluff in my baby’s hair and I started to cry, too. In his own toddler way, he was trying to do something nice for her. He didn’t see any disobedience because he was not pulling her hair — he would never pull her hair — he was helping her. Of course, I gave him a big hug and asked his forgiveness.
That time has always served as a reminder to me to make sure that before I discipline in any way, I have to the best of my ability all the information, including the intentions of the children involved.
The second thing that stood out to me was this quote:
Also might we not take into more reasonable and pitiful consideration the strong pressure of temptation on the weak little soul of child or cat, even when it has a half feeling that it is wrong doing?
This reminds me of one of my very favourite quotes in the whole Bible. It is such a favourite of mine that I have it copied in the very front of my Bible, so it is there to remind me each time I open it up.
As a father pities his children,
Sothe LORD pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
Isn’t that a picture of exactly what the author of the article is suggesting above? It isn’t that we overlook wrong-doing. Rather, it is that when we place ourselves in an empathetic position, as fellow people who know well the temptation that exists, particularly when young and immature, we leave ourselves much less likely to be rash or harsh. As well, we are much more likely to look at each situation not as an adversarial confrontation, but as an opportunity to teach, from one who is wiser and more experienced to someone who is inexperienced and lacks wisdom.