The joy of naughty children

What Mel Did - three black naughty boys eating cake

On the trip to London yesterday, I had the pleasure of a live performance of ‘Naughty Child Runs Rampant on London Transport.’ There was nothing it did not occur to this child to jump on, pull at or kick… and cheeky. Good, old-fashioned, unadulterated naughtiness. The ‘Just William’ of 2017.

Naughty children by definition are naughty, but… (and I would ask you to keep this amongst us grown-ups) I do have a sneaking liking for them.

Not that ‘good children’ are boring, you understand, but I suppose I identify with naughty children because I was one of their ilk a hundred years ago. Back then the cure when you caught a dose of the naughtiness was a spanking, thick ear or detention – and typically a spanking and thick ear whilst you were in detention! Oh, the power those sadist teachers wielded back then.

Today it is different, and adults of all descriptions, including teachers, are discouraged from the laying on of hands when it comes to discplining unruly children.

And it was watching encore after encore of ‘Naughty Child Goes Rogue’ which reminded me of one of my favourite naughty children stories when I worked in school many years ago.

When I first met Lauren* (now a grown woman with children of her own), she often skirted around the edge of a school suspension, but somehow always managed to dodge the bullet – until the day she didn’t.

So it was I went into bat for Lauren at her suspension hearing. I was to speak on her behalf as a stay of execution – a last ditch effort to get her arse to stay in school so close to exams.

My dictat to Lauren was to keep quiet unless asked to speak and, even when spoken to, to answer politely in as few words as possible, since it was her prolific use of the English language which had got her into the situation she now found herself in. It was further agreed that, on my prompting, she was to recite the script which we hoped would save her.

All was going well up to the midway point of the hearing, where numerous re-tellings of THE INCIDENT were being aired by all interested and disinterested parties.

Then came Lauren’s turn to speak and, with a nod from me, she began:

“I’m sorry for what I said to Mr Brown*. I now know from Miss Fargo that there is more appropriate language with which to voice disagreement or concern. I will, therefore, try to use more respectful and appropriate terms in the future when I am vexed.”

Yes, of course everyone knew I had coached that child like a pet parakeet, but this was not a bad child – just a naughty child who needed to get out of her own way and defy some of the labels which had been slapped on her back.

Despite the obvious coaching, I could see from the faces of the gathered and great they were impressed. Chiefly I suspect because Lauren had managed to string more than two words together which didn’t include ‘F’ or ‘Off.’

So, in the last innings and all to play for it looked like we were going to pull this thing off. Then Lauren politely asked to voice a question.

“Yes, Lauren,” said someone from a great distance. (I was to find out later it was me.)

“But, Miss, what if the teacher IS a git?”

I took my coughing fit and screwed up script to the Ladies toilet and returned in time to wave Lauren off and wish her well on her two-week suspension.

The learning I got from this was to not only coach naughty children in the art of language when vexed by a teacher, but to coach naughty children in the art of language when vexed by a teacher who is, in fact, a git.

Back in World Real, I must have been smiling at Naughty Child on Train during my reverie, who momentarily stilled was staring at me fascinated… or scared. It was also my stop coming up, and as I left the carriage I wondered just how long it would be before he did manage to reach that red emergency handle.

And what explanation his harassed mother would find for his not being able to call her by her first name since, as he pointed out time and again, it WAS her name?

It was almost worth missing my stop to find out.

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