Boys are easily breakable

Boys are easily breakable, and not so easily “mendable.” They are demonstrably more immature than girls in general and can experience ups and downs with more regularity. For the longest time they try to live up to the expectation of being tough when inside they are so vulnerable. One person, one tragedy, one love gone wrong can totally suspend the course of their lives and turn anger from a guest to a resident inside their soul.

Joe (not his real name) is 10 or 11. He has three strikes against him: 1. He is Chinese; 2. He lost his father to cancer about three years ago; 3. He is an incredibly smart kid. The other day I saw him in church and asked how he was doing in school. “Good,” he said, “except that the kids bully me all the time.” I asked him, “What do you mean?” “Well,” he said, “they call me ‘weird’ and say names and stuff about me.” “Have they been physically rough with you?” I asked. “Sometimes,” he said. I told him to tell a teacher or a school official any time he felt threatened, and to avoid being alone with the boys who do that. He said he was doing that.

I was amazed that this boy was talking to me about his personal life, but then I remembered, “He doesn’t have a father and he probably doesn’t have anyone to talk to him about these things.” I told him to continue to study hard. “One day you will be ahead of all these people who are making fun of you today.” He said, “I am already the top student in my class by far.” I told him how proud I was of him. And I said that he can talk to me any time about these things.

I am not trying to make myself be something I am not here. Truth be told, I am sure that most of the time I have failed to seize the moment to encourage a young child who feels alone and confused. I have no doubt I failed my own children many times. And so many of these missed opportunities are now gone forever and that makes me sad.

I remember the funeral of that boy’s father. There weren’t too many people there. He was an engineer at an automotive company. I barely knew the family but decided to go anyway because my neighbor, who is also Chinese and goes to my church, had made a point of letting me know what was happening. Funerals are always sad ordeals but funerals for people who die away from home in a foreign country are doubly sad. And I remember that boy and his older sister. I am sure they were the loneliest people in that room.

School teachers and administrators need to take another look at boys. They should try to know their history. Do they have a father and a mother? Are they both living with them? Do they have someone to talk to? Are any of their parents serving time in jail now? Do they have older siblings? Are their drugs in the home? Has their short life already been marked by tragedy?

I know the same could be done about girls, but the fact of the matter is that troubled boys are the ones pulling the triggers in schools, not girls. And don’t tell me that these questions are intrusive, that they invade people’s privacy, etc., etc. I am willing to guess that more lives could have been saved if people were a little more willing to probe.

Of course, in the process of doing this, mistakes will be made. This week, for example, we read about a father who was arrested in Toronto because his daughter drew a picture of a man carrying a gun and she said something to the teacher about her dad killing “bad guys” with it (I may not be getting all the details here). While the media is coming down hard on the teacher, I am more sympathetic to her. Wish more people would be vigilant like that. To read the story, go here. You will probably agree with me that if there is someone at fault here it is the authorities for using excessive force and intimidation. But again I don’t know if in Canada someone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

At any rate, I tell everybody out there: treat your boys with tenderness and remember how easily they break. And if you ever do anything to contribute to breaking a boy, remember that it may take all the rest of us to try to “unbreak” him. Love your boy, hug him every day and tell him it is okay to cry sometimes. And if you know a lonely boy in your circle of influence, reach out to him today. It won’t take you long to see that you can make a huge difference.

Ivanildo C. Trindade