Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to Raise Boys

Last night I went to the boy's parent teacher conference. I have been to a few now that he is in second grade, but I was not adequately (or at all) prepared to hear, "Your son is reading below grade level." It was a shock to hear because he's been complaining lately that his reading group is too easy and he is bored. It was a shock because he reads chapter books at home to me rather well. It was a shock because it is October and he has been in school since August 15th and this was the first I have heard of it. It was a shock because he is mine. After pressing further I learned it is not so much the reading that is below grade level, but the comprehension of the material read. During the beginning of the school year assessments are done on the kids where they read a short book and then regurgitate it back to the teacher. Long story short, the book was about a girl who was nervous the first time she began something new. I honestly have no idea what the something is, I missed that part when my brain was trying to wrap itself around the words "below grade level." The boy did relate the nervousness the girl felt to when he first started preschool. Then when asked what the story was about the boy replied, "well the girl was a lot nervous at first, then less, and then not so much at all." Seems to me he understood the story just fine, he related it back to an experience in his life and then explained the girl became less nervous. Nope. His answer was deemed below grade level. So I had to sign an intervention form. I also was told that I would receive a sheet of questions that are asked of the kids during the assessment so I could ask the boy them during reading time at home, so he becomes FAMILIAR WITH THE LANGUAGE OF THE ASSESSMENT. Now I ask you, is that education or is that teaching to an assessment. I believe it is the latter. I also don't think boys are all that chatty about crap they are not interested in.

I am of the opinion that boys and girls learn completely differently. That men and women are completely different and the school system is set up now to have girls thrive while boys struggle. I have two little boys I need to raise to be productive adults who do not play video games all day as grown men, can hold down a job, and not move back in with me. I need my boys to grow up to be confident men, regardless of what they do in life; whether it be a stay at home dad, teacher, engineer, garbage man, or what have you, they will need confidence. Thankfully the boy is still full of confidence.

I question what we are doing as a society when I read articles about men who are not growing up, not finishing college at near the rate of women, not taking responsibility for their kids, but playing around. It seems to me there is a complete lack of role models for boys/men out there. Granted, there are not a lot of media role models for girls/women, but look around and girls see strong women daily, now more than ever. I had one of the strongest women I know raise me. She still doesn't cut me any slack.

The books the boy brings home are geared towards little girls. Little boys like adventure, they like daring. They do NOT want to read about the emotions of a nervous little girl. Maybe a little boy who is the underdog and then rises to the top, but certainly not about a girl. They are little boys and little boys are not allowed to be little boys now. They are supposed to act like little girls. This would be fine if these books were counterbalanced, because hey, we all have to put up with stuff we don't want to do. But they aren't.

I have a girl. I am a girl. I am also a feminist. I want equal pay and equal rights for women. I am sick of the double standard against women; good looks = stupid, determination = bitch. I have noticed that girls will be told "you can't do something" or "you are not doing that well" and she will say to herself, "Oh yeah? Eff you I'll do it even better." I don't think girls necessarily need confidence boosters in the same way boys do. Sure they want to hear they are doing well at something and what they are doing for others is appreciated, but girls have an underlying fight in them. Not sure if it comes from needing to protect offspring regardless of what happens in life, but most women hold their own pretty damn well. I don't care what it is they are into, cupcakes, photography, writing, triathlons, women will make it work and put their soul into it. All with out needing too many compliments along the way.

Men need confidence boosters. Boys need the same. I believe if a man feels like he is not doing well in something he will just shut down. Sure, its easier to play video games all day, if you are losing you can just switch games. You see lots of examples in the media and in politics of idiotic men. They may have good jobs, but they are portrayed as the village idiot. This is doing no one any good. Sometimes I go crazy when it feels like Mr. Man is fishing for compliments. It will drive me up the freaking wall. But I am coming to realize that he actually needs this. He needs to feel like he is on top of his game or he will not perform well at work or in whatever else. The boy is the same way. His teacher told me as soon as he finished his assessment he wanted to know where he placed. "Did I place in the top ten. You know, like in the the Tour de France. I bet I did." I really don't want that drive or confidence to go away.

As a society we need men to be productive, not just adult sized boys. We need for this is idea of manly to stop being drinking beer in the man cave with the video games, and then meeting the guys at the strip club later. That is not manly. I really am starting to believe that if women and society were to encourage actual "manly" pursuits and compliment men once in a blue moon they may respond to life a little more. Manly being whatever the guy is into, football, business, fishing, Nascar, My Little Ponies, but most importantly participating in society in some manner. Women are not going to lose their inner fight by telling a man they are proud of them. I promise.

But for the love of Pete, get some better books for little boys and don't expect little boys to be all chatty about a girl's feelings. He is a boy, give him an an adventure book and ask him about what happens in the adventure. He'll tell you, because he probably imagined himself in it. Then tell your little guy, "Good job, you ARE in the top ten. In fact you are number one."