Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/343

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339
DIFFICULT BOYS

ing may, and does often, bring forward rapidly one part of the mind while another remains distinctly infantile. Conditions of bodily health, not always obvious or even readily estimable, produce profound changes in cerebral energizing, so that one day certain beliefs, capacities and limitations may exist and to-morrow the balance of power be far otherwise. Under certain conditions, not readily determinable by common criteria, we may note and encourage in some the most bubbling spontaneity, and in others similar circumstances may check all this, inducing introspection, discontent with self or surroundings, even a brooding melancholy. Tastes and inclinations differ enormously, especially in boys; also standards of excellence. Conceptions of objects worthy of pursuit in sport, or study, or plans for life, are often widely at variance, not only in different individuals, but in the same boys at different times and under dissimilar conditions.

Many boys are possessed of greater fixity of purpose than others. This is usually assumed to be an altogether desirable quality. Not always so, because one boy may possess a nature large with possibilities and varied capacities, some of which are bad, revision being most desirable. It would be a deplorable unfairness to compel such a one to become molded into a definite form before time and circumstances have permitted a symmetric shaping of the best several parts of a complex organism. It may be that such a boy will require many years of opportunity and training to furnish scope to vast inherent powers for good. Put him into a narrow line, and only warping and possibly embitterment and deterioration follow. However, fixity of purpose is to be welcomed in the main, because direction can be given to strong impulses; but it is a hard task to steer a drifting ship.

The subject is so wide and capable of being treated under such a variety of headings that my purpose here is only to offer from my experience remarks upon two of the chief influences which either make for corrective development, or emphasize the original bent and impair usefulness and citizenship. The one is home training and early environment, the other is the school and the teacher.

A long experience in the specialty of diseases of children has brought me in contact with many children in their homes. A large and important book could, indeed should^ be written on the subject of parenthood. In a paper I wrote some years ago ('The Nervous Mother,' Univ. Med. Mag., N. Y., 1895) I said:

We all love to contemplate our eidos, or highest concept of the mother, the unspeakable beauty of which has alternately lured and baffled thinkers and poets throughout recorded history. Nothing is too good or can be claimed as too lovely in description or praise for the ideal type of maternity. It is then with regret we must admit that the average mother is often disappointing. It has been permitted me to meet many superbly beautiful mothers. Yet this