Our boys are such a gift. Seeing the world with new eyes each day. Laughing riotously, about everything, anything, and nothing at all. Full of big dreams and even bigger imaginations.
But in many ways, we fail our boys, too.
We don’t do enough to encourage their sensitivity. Middle school students mock boys for crying, and there are still too many parents who reinforce that message at home. I don’t want my son falling apart over a paper cut (my daughter either!), but our boys need to know that it’s okay to cry. That sometimes, sitting through the really hard stuff and letting it out is the only way to move forward.
Some men soldier on through thick and thin because, well, “MEN, men, men, men.” But trauma manifests in other ways for those who don’t (or won’t) cry. Ninety hour work weeks, drinking, drugs, distancing emotionally from friends and family. People who shove their feelings back into the closet pay a price for that stiff upper lip.
Ironically, after decades of failing girls, schools are now a minefield for our boys. Young ones struggle with regimented schedules in elementary schools, places where recess critical for burning off excess energy gets replaced with extended classroom instruction. Boys receive mixed messages from middle and high schools. Girls hear you can do anything you put your mind to, exploring AP classes and honors programs; boys are encouraged to excel academically but find greater accolades for athletic achievements. Even more confusing, boys who do succeed academically can be ridiculed by their peers for that very success.
We’re also too slow to recognize the social road blocks boys encounter as they enter the teen years. After a decade of having one (or more) best buds, teenage boys find themselves wading into unfamiliar territory as society’s acceptance of emotional connections between males wanes. They miss having close friendships, but boys who allow themselves to appear vulnerable risk being called gay or girly, leaving themselves open to repercussions in boy world. We shirk our responsibilities when we don’t help boys grow into men capable of strong relationships. (Michigan State University Extension, 2/9/17)
These boys – our boys – deserve so much more from us. We love them. Now we need to find ways to help them fly higher and further than ever before.
[My post on girls can be found here.]