“Boys will be boys, don’t ask why.” Really?

kids sitting on green grass field

In the blink of an eye, my boys (and I) survived the first month of 2022. And what a month it’s been!

New books, uniforms, teachers and friends. Most of all, new routines and happenings.

Looking back, this first month was pretty much all about these things, these adjustments.

Some of them I saw coming.

But some, I didn’t.

Life in a new school

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While my youngest moved over to the ‘big kids’ section of his campus, my eldest began life as a secondary school kid for the very first time this month.

It took me back to my own first month of secondary school life, which in my case was a lifetime ago!

The difference? I was a live wire of nervous hormones then, because I knew no one and didn’t know what to expect.

In contrast, my son was cooler than a cucumber. For the weeks leading up to January, he kept saying he was glad to leave the childish days of primary school behind. He couldn’t wait to plunge headlong into the “more mature” years of secondary school life.

After pouring through the mountain of information available, he made his choice of school and never looked back.

In high spirits, my boy stepped through the gates of his new learning abode this month.

And right into not one but two unpleasant encounters!

Unpleasant encounter #1

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It was the first week of school; typically one set aside for newbies like my son to tour and orientate themselves to the place. No lessons, just lots of activities and briefings to get everyone as comfortable as possible with their new environment.

And with each other.

Which for 12-going-on-13 year olds meant plenty of games and bonding sessions.

It was during one of these that my son had his first memorable, unpleasant experience.

The teacher had divided his class into small groups to compete in a “brainstorm-to-brilliance” activity. Each group received a set of random materials to create something marvellous based on a set criteria. Fastest team with the best design wins.

Midway into it, and bored, my son figured he might as well roam about and check out what others were doing. Plus he’d already given his team ideas which weren’t adopted, so no point hanging around them right?

Or so he thought.

A member of his team saw him move off and promptly remarked that he was useless and unhelpful. Not wanting to cause trouble, though clearly miffed, my dear boy let out an expletive he believed wouldn’t be heard.

He was wrong!

The other boy immediately started to shout his disapproval to the consternation of my son. And the surprise of both the teacher and the rest of the class, still busy building their masterpieces and oblivious to what was going on.

What’s worse, that boy kept on shouting like he’d completely gone unhinged! At least according to my son.

That incident earned both boys a time-out with their teacher, who let them off with a stern warning since it was their first infraction.

Unpleasant though that was, I wasn’t too sure which one of us was more surprised. Him by his explosive new classmate (they’ve since made up thank goodness), or me by his use of an expletive (which we both later agreed he should think first before speaking in future)!

In any case, my son and I figured that was that. Once lessons commenced in Week 2, there should be world peace right?

Boy were we wrong!

Unpleasant encounter #2

soldiers in historical clothes during reenactment of battle during napoleonic war
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This past week, while attending a work-related course online, I received a text from my dear boy few parents would wish to receive. It had just three words: “I’m so scared.”

As I was in the middle of a discussion with my course-mates, I couldn’t call my son to find out what happened though I wanted very much to. Instead, I sent a quick text reply to ask him what happened, and to take deep breaths and move away if he could from whatever was scaring him in school.

Feeling unsettled yet unable to do more, I turned my attention back to my course.

It was only later when he returned home that I learned there had been a big fight in my son’s class that morning. During a lesson on, get this, how students can better manage stress and challenges!

What apparently looked for all intents and purposes to be a friendly slap on the back and exchange of words between two boys, broke out into World War III.

The boy who received that slap on the back apparently broke into tears and turned ballistic on the other boy, leading to a series of kicks and fisticuffs worthy of MMA!

Looking on mortified, my son and his other classmates did what came most naturally to them. Most, like him, ran for cover or stared aghast from a safe distance. A few tried to physically break up the fight, even as the teacher tried to restore calm.

To the best of my knowledge, though the teacher (and later a school counsellor) got the boys to make up, both kids didn’t show up for school the next day.

A simple case of “boys will be boys”? Or…?

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The Chinese have a saying “不打不相识” (bu da bu xiang shi). If you don’t fight then you won’t get to know someone.

I’m sure my ancient ancestors weren’t advocating violence. Anecdotal evidence across cultures, time and countless movies often show how friendships are forged after an exchange of blows. Most will say “boys will be boys” whenever such unpleasant incidences occur. Meaning there’s no need to raise the alarm when boys scuffle (but only when girls do apparently, like a recent incident here that went viral).

Now few would link these boys-to-men altercations with future displays of toxic masculinity, thinking this a big leap of logic or a simple case of making mountains out of molehills.

That may be true –if it only happened once.

But twice or more? Would they still be “molehills”?

I don’t have the answer, though I hope to unpack some in future posts.

However, I think anger management is a serious enough issue no parent or educator should ignore.

At least not at the expense of our kids, though I suspect my future musings may reveal more skeletons in the closet! More stuff about us as adults and our past upbringing than we might care to uncover.

Meantime, here’s hoping for world peace in my son’s school next month.

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