What are little boys made of?
Frogs and snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails.
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice.
Nothing delights my heart quite so much as a little boy. Talkative, rambunctious, mischievous, and fidgety, little boys are endless sources of amusement and inspiration. There’s nothing false or pretentious about them. It’s little boys we remember – Tom Sawyer conning his friends into paying him to paint his fence, the antics of Soup and apple-whipping, the sadistic creativity of Kevin McCallister, and of course, O. Henry’s Johnny driving his kidnappers to near-distraction, to the point where Johnny’s father insists the kidnappers pay him for the privilege of sending the brat home.
It’s a shame that society has now shifted toward catering to little girls more than boys. School and church social behavior is modeled more after the more adaptive female (sit still, pay attention, don’t fidget), forgetting the natural boyish tendencies of high levels of activity. Little boys admire men and do their best to emulate them but never truly abandon their boyishness. The best teacher understands little boys and how they differ from little girls, and loves that about them. Yes, they need a firm hand, but also a tolerant and understanding one.
One episode of Rosemary & Thyme revolves around a mystery at a private boys’ school in England. Much of the inferior conflict of the tale (outside the murder mystery) revolves around the headmaster’s desire to strip away all the amusements and traditions of the school for more “proper behavior” and the Latin professor’s attempts to thwart him. Richard Oakley is the ideal teacher for little boys – a man of “duty and honor” all the way through who understands that little boys need “silliness”! He keeps easy control in his classroom (it falls into chaos if he leaves for five minutes, whereupon he returns with a feigned scowl and obvious appreciation and fondness for their antics) and the dormitories, but his students adore him. They obey him, but they also admire him.
Richard confiscates toys, berates the self-titled “little maggots” for their absurdities, and indulges them in their antics with good-natured enthusiasm. He is more bark than bite, an external grump with a gentle and mischievous nature underneath. He understands his students, and loves them for their rambunctious behavior. He teaches them Latin, but more importantly, he teaches them by example what it is to be a good man: willing to stand up for what is right, but tolerant and indulgent of playfulness. Richard strives to keep the silly tradition of “revenge” on the teachers one night a year alive, and is willing to sacrifice his reputation and position to keep the school’s dignity intact. He protects the reputations of the younger teachers under him in a desire to support their efforts and nearly falls on his own “rusty sword” to prevent the school’s closure.
In the end, Richard becomes the owner and Headmaster, ensuring that for generations to come, or at least until “they put me in my grave, and even then, I will probably interfere as a ghost!” there will be a certain amount of self-indulgent silliness amid the seriousness of life, because that’s what little boys thrive on.
He will make a charming ghost.
This is part of the Anthony Andrews Blog Hop.