Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Eggs in the water

I came across this fantastic quote this morning. It was in my A.Word.A.Day e-mail.

One does not advance the swimming abilities of ducks by throwing the eggs in the water.

-Multatuli (pen name of Eduard Douwes Dekker), novelist (1820-1887)

I never heard of this guy, but now I have to look him up.

This expresses beautifully my quarrel with those who say that infants should sleep alone in their own rooms with the door shut so that they can learn independence. That they should be left to "cry it out" so that they can develop self-reliance. That every child should be steeped daily in an environment of toxic peers and authority figures (instead of, say, homeschooling for individuals better suited to that) so that they can learn resilience and other advanced social skills.

And a hundred other different ways that people push babies and children into overwhelming situations they aren't prepared to manage, on the theory that this itself will give them that preparation. That waiting until a child is strong and ready is no more than unhealthy, effetizing coddling.


  1. Thank you. My children are grown now. With \"way too much coddling,\" one is now a firefighter and the other an ironworker building high-rises. Coddling? Or nurturing?

  2. Thank you! I'm Dutch and Multatuli is one among he few writers of real importance The Netherlands produced.(19th century) Funny enough, after receiving the quote in the AWAD- email today I wondered about the meaning. Even though my English is sufficient to understand the words,it seemed to make no sense to me. My search on Dutch internet gave no results. I still will try to find the quote in Dutch to look at the original words. For now, thanks!


  3. Anonymous, thanks for your comment.

    Sounds like nurturing to me.

  4. Thanks for your comment, branshea! You inspired me to post more on Multatuli -- check it out.

    It's interesting that you say The Netherlands hasn't produced many important writers. I wonder why?

    At any rate, I visited your blog and I see you're carrying on the Dutch tradition of beautiful painting!

    Please tell me if you find any more info or get more insight into the duck egg quote.

    Meantime, here's how I interpret it: If you force someone into a situation before they're not ready for it, you will destroy them (the ducklings in the eggs will simply die away from the warm nest). But if you let a person develop naturally, providing what is needed when it's needed, they'll eventually be able to master that same situation.

    In the case of the duck eggs, all they need is the warmth that allows them to hatch, food and shelter until they grow up a bit, and eventually, access to water. Then, presto, they'll swim like ducks, rather than sink like rocks.

  5. Dear Vesna,

    Only today I found your answer throuhg a haphazard browse.
    Yes, I did get to the source text in Multaluli's "Ideas". This link should bring you to the AWAD forum page I posted the details.
    I'll put your blog on my bloglist, so I need not search for for it,

    Regards BranShea

  6. Sorry , forgot to do the link: