I’m a bit reluctant to post this. I started working on this piece almost a year ago. I would edit, add things, change things and then leave it for a bit, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t post this on my blog… but recently some paperwork showed up in my house sent home from my son’s middle school that made me think that I’m probably not the only one thinking about all this… and if I am, please know that this isn’t meant to attack anyone or any group in particular. These are just my own thoughts and opinions about what I’ve been seeing lately…
Hubby and I were talking a while ago about how to raise these boys of ours into strong, independent, caring men.
So many people talk about media warping girls’ images of themselves. They can’t be too thin or glamorous. And to that I say, yep. That sucks. I didn’t really grow up with too much of that in my life and I’m lucky that back when I was young (you know, the black-and-white days according to my kids), we weren’t bombarded by these ideas of what your body should look like – does anyone ever talk about personality anymore? Sense of humour anyone? How about a brain inside that pretty head? Does that count for anything? Or is that a self-professed geeky girl’s idea of being ‘deep’ that is now very much gone with the wind?
So yeah, teen girls have their trials and tribulations and this isn’t really about all of that. I don’t have girls. I don’t know what they go through other than what I deal with on a daily basis when I look in the mirror and try to come to terms with the gray hair, new wrinkles and extra weight… sigh…
What I have issues with lately is what the media is doing to boys’ minds.
What goes through their head when they see a commercial with a dad bumbling through the household using roadside flares as birthday candles on a child’s cake?
TV ads show men as middle-aged, clueless idiots while their wives save the day (and the household, the kids, pets, the school and neighborhood.)
And as a woman, it might feel like that some days – we’re doing it all, aren’t we ladies? Doesn’t it seem like it at times? But when did it become okay for men to be portrayed as buffoons? Why is it that they are always shown as the butt of everyone’s joke?
How do you tell your own boys that this is not real-life? It isn’t acceptable?
Don’t get me wrong – some of those ads are darn funny! And I’m not trying to put out a big serious message here, but I’m getting a little fed up lately.
When you are seeing this, day in and day out, doesn’t that have the same effect on a boy as being bombarded by images of perfection for all those girls out there?
And if it is okay for all these advocacy groups to be out there touting girl power… where are all the people standing up for boy power?
I’m thinking that might be gone with the wind too.
And as for those cartoons, comedies and commercials? Don’t sit there and say to me, “well, you shouldn’t have your kids watching TV then.”
Yeah. There’s a solution. I think you’re reading the wrong blog if you think that’s an option here.
For anyone who said, ‘don’t use the TV as a babysitter’, they didn’t have three boys cooped up on a -30, snowy day. Five days in a row… Kay?
So what’s my reasoning behind letting them watch it any other time, you may ask?
Seriously. Go find another blog. You don’t belong here.
Back to business.
What kind of men are we raising? Are we fighting a losing battle here?
I don’t want them to think that they are lazy, good-for-nothing couch potatoes. But isn’t that what they see on TV? They’re being shown that a lot of grown men can’t do anything right and need their hands held for the rest of their lives.
I saw a bit of a documentary the other day called Miss Representation. It discusses how women are portrayed in the media and talks about how men are led to believe that they are successful when they have the fancy, powerful car, the right clothes and a beautiful woman draped over them.
There was complete outrage over how media affects women’s minds and a little side note about how men are pigeon-holed (sorry for the pun) as being either money-grubbing, womanizing dick-heads hell-bent on world domination or schlubby pot-head underachievers.
From commercials, to TV shows, to movies, to magazines.
I agree on focusing on the media and their portrayal of women. Definitely.
For example, there was an old Doritos commercial the documentary showed. A guy is sitting on a park bench and a gorgeous woman is walking by. He opens his bag of chips and her clothes fly off. I guess there was just so much flavour-power in the bag that her clothes couldn’t take it and whipped right off her body. But the guy on the bench remained completely dressed.
So I get the whole double standard thing.
So riddle me this – how many cartoons are out there with a male lead that is bumbling and somewhat idiotic, but things always manage to work out in the end anyway? Usually because the brilliant kids, the genius cat or the power-house wife saved the day. I can count five off the top of my head.
And those commercials that I admitted earlier that gave me a little giggle. A dumpy, goofy guy is put in charge of one job for Christmas or back-to-school or a birthday party. Again with the roadside flares on the cake.
Everyone rolls their eyes, shakes their head and smiles.
Oh Dad (Grandpa, neighbour, brother)… you silly nitwit. Here, let me help you.
You get my drift.
Recently the boys found a YouTube video (grrr – I love YouTube. For me. But I hate that my boys have found it) in which a guy (who is sooooo funny, Mom. He is soooo funny! Wow, what a funny guy) who will remain nameless mentions his new girlfriend who isn’t very nice and who says mean and nasty things to him, but its okay because she’s beautiful.
I told them I didn’t think that was right. Why is it okay for a person to talk like that just because they’re pretty?
They just said because it’s funny.
So then I tried to go into how a person’s personality is what makes them attractive. How they treat each other, etc…
I didn’t push it. They’re 7, 8 and 10. Let them giggle.
They weren’t even listening anymore.
So when does the serious conversation start up?
This goes back to the talk hubby and I had about raising our boys. He feels sympathy for women and completely understands that empowering them to love themselves and be proud of who they are is crucial and extremely important, as do I.
He also fears for the future of his sons. Who is sending those same messages to young boys?
So this paperwork… sigh…
Last week – first week of school and a mountain of paper came home for me to sign. School forms, volunteer forms, yadda yadda.
In the midst of all this was a rainbow coloured piece of paper describing a great after-school program to help build self-esteem. A place you can go with like-minded young people where you can discuss issues in a safe environment. It was held at the school. How awesome! This is middle-school? I was so excited for my son to check it out! What a neat idea for pre-teens!
So I’m getting a little fed up as a mother of boys.
Why is it okay to leave them behind?
I talked with another mom the other day from the school we just transferred out of. She was asking why we moved schools and she said that she was having problems at this particular school with her boys too.
And I’m not a mom to profess my child’s absolute perfection in all things (that’s just annoying – and completely unrealistic).
But there are bunches out there who think their child is the end all, be all. The second coming. And they can’t do anything wrong.
And I think some of them went to our previous school! Just kidding… ish…
Don’t get me wrong. My kids have all types of entitlement issues (every time I run to the store for milk, all three of them clamor for some gum or a Slurpee – why not, why Mom? Pulllease? Just one? Just one! Please? We never get anything. You never buy us anything, Mom. Jeez, Mom. This is the worst day ever!)…
And in response to my kids’ crazy ideas of how we owe them the world, I get on them about how to treat other people with respect (siblings, however, are exempt in this conversation. It’s just reality. Trust me – I try).
And to have manners. And to treat others with compassion, consideration. Basically, you treat others like you want to be treated.
I have a sneaky suspicion that there are a few kids out there not getting these messages hammered into their tiny brains.
I think in fact that some of them are being raised to believe that the world owes them something and that it isn’t just a childhood whim to have everything your way. You go for it dammit and step on the throat of anyone who dares to get in your way.
At what cost? And I ain’t talking money here.
So where is this coming from? Why are boys being relegated to the proverbial back-seat while the focus remains on empowering girls and women? Doesn’t it seem to you that we are all so consumed with giving girls a good self-image that boys have fallen by the wayside? Why are we okay with looking at girls under a microscope and trying so hard to give them a hand up while completely ignoring boys?
I recently had a conversation with a friend at the current school my boys are attending. I love this school. I love the teachers; I love the administration, the parents, the kids, and the whole aura of the place. But this goes to show that one individual can have a huge, sideways impact on a person. My friend’s teacher doesn’t get boys. Her boy in particular.
He is too rambunctious, too loud, and too boisterous. He doesn’t listen.
This sounds incredibly familiar.
I live it.
We went through this with my oldest for the first four years of his academic life! I remember sitting down with the principal of our former school for what seemed like the umpteenth time and you know what she said to me?
Elementary school is not made for boys.
And we’re okay with that?
What’s being done to change that? Nothing you say?
So now can anyone honestly look me in the eye and tell me that boys are not being left out and left behind?
So what would I do if I were in charge? Well, one thing that this current school does and maybe it is a common occurrence in public school rather than charter schools, but the kids get up from their desks. The teacher brings them to the carpet at the front of the class to teach a lesson. They go back to their desks to perform the task. Then they come back to the carpet to learn something else and go back to their desks to continue their work. They get up to get a book and then go to a different table to do reading. They get up and go get journals in a certain spot. Math stuff is in a different location. They’re on the carpet building things, working in groups, going to a different spot to do something else. The kids are always moving. Or at least way more than I ever saw at their last school.
Guess what? No visits to the principal’s office in the last year for the Pigeon family.
Of course the new year is just beginning. I’ll keep you posted…
I think the biggest obstacle we conquered here is that my boys actually like school now. Is it because they’re more engaged? Is it something else altogether? Or am I imagining this? Am I delusional?
I don’t think so. I think we’re at least going in the right direction here.
So then what would I do with these schools? Implement a movement/exercise program. First thing in the morning.
Boys are full of energy. They need to burn it off.
Teachers need for boys to burn the energy off.
What is fifteen minutes in the grand scheme of things? Thirty minutes would be even better. Get kids out in the field and do five laps around the school. Even walking at a brisk pace. Too cold? This is Calgary after all. Get them to stand up beside their desks. In the hallway even. 20 jumping jacks, 20 push ups, run in place for a count of 60 and do it over again twice.
Think they’ll have the wiggles anymore? Maybe one more round of jumping jacks.
Can’t hurt, I think.
In the mornings my boys are usually wound up. Breakfast is done, school stuff packed, teeth brushed and what do they do? Wrestle. Run around the house. I sometimes send the most hyper ones downstairs to jump on our mini-trampoline for 5 minutes. I set the kitchen timer. They come up breathless and still full of energy, but they’re a little more low-key than before.
Send them outside. They’ll run around, grab their Nerf guns and have a big battle for five minutes while I feed the pets and grab my keys.
Whoops. Almost forgot that we aren’t supposed to play with toy guns.
So what would my boys do if I took those toys away? Grab a branch and turn it into a sword.
What’s the big deal? I think the biggest hurdle boys face is being misunderstood. They’re not always misbehaving. They’re full of energy.
I was thinking the other day about how my little brother probably got a bad rap growing up. Here he is, an active boy into Star Wars, and Hot Wheels. Full of energy and always on the go. Struggling with school. And then his older sister doesn’t have half the energy he does, can read for hours in her room and loves school.
Think he had it easy? Who do you think the parents came down on for acting up and for school marks?
And I’ll admit, at the time, I worked that angle. I was li’l Miss Perfect and basked in the rays of being oh-so-fabulous.
My brother? He definitely got the short end of the stick when it came to school marks and expectations.
I’ve talked with a few friends who have a boy and a girl. They are sometimes so incredibly exasperated with their son.
What do you expect? The daughter can go and colour for an hour at a time. The son wants to head out and put the bad guys in jail, wrestle with someone, build a Lego dungeon and create a robot. All in the span of ten minutes.
Now being a gal myself, I still don’t really get boys. I’ve been married for 15 years this year and with my hubby for 18 years total and I’ve been a Momma for almost 10 years. Think I know what I’m doing? Not a chance. These are just things that I think could work, might work and sometimes I don’t even practice what I preach and find that yelling at these crazy kids is sometimes the most effective thing of all!
I’ll just continue to hope that these awesome boys will grow into men who are strong enough to shrug off all the BS the world is so ready to hand them.
They already have it down to a science being able to shrug off anything their parents say. Fingers crossed they can do that with society too.