Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I killed half the neighborhood when I was young…

Got your attention?   Well, it’s true but just not in the literal sense.  When I was growing up I can remember being in constant battles with my brother and the neighborhood kids. Whether it was a round of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, army men, or Jedi saves Princess Leah (that’s me) from the evil dark side. I had to be a tough little girl to be allowed to play with the boys so, I killed almost the entire Dark side with my pink light saber in an effort to defend myself, of course.   Unfortunately, during the years of these play days in the yard, I was killed countless times, my brother was killed more than I, and we killed off half the neighborhood kids too.  All of us were killed at one time or another only to return to the dinner table at 6 sharp to discuss or daily battles at length.

Now, I haven’t Googled all of the kids on the block in a while, but I am almost certain that none of us blew up a government office with a pipe bomb, went on a shooting rampage at a school, or even went to prison for that matter. Our play was just a part of growing up. Most of us were gentle souls who went on to go to college, have careers and families and watch our children play outside too.  The only difference is that now, we are criminalizing our own children for even using the word “kill”. Heaven forbid they should have a pretend gun or sword of any kind and they definitely can’t talk about shooting at school or draw their battle scenes for that matter.  Just so you know, I didn’t buy my son a weapon either.  Well now, we have a Lego light saber, a toilet paper roll pistol, and a basketball cannon in the back yard.
My knights! The one with a blower for a sword won! :)

Yes, they will find a way. It is in their nature as boys (and the occasional Annie Oakley of the bunch). If you think about it, from the moment that humans evolved from ape form and had a brain larger than a walnut, we were developing modern weaponry. Men are natural protectors, hunters and gatherers, runners, and providers. They are bred and have evolved to be tough. As far and the history museums can go back, you will see displays of all kinds of mallets, tomahawks, knifes, swords, guns. Violence of some form was part of our lives dating back hundreds and hundreds of years.  These kinds of things excite men and young boys alike. They engage them and their brains. They spend hours of strategizing and pretending and decision making and learning. Yes, they learn from play.  No matter what form? Believe it or not, most of them will learn life lessons from these games, they will learn sympathy, they will learn to problem solve and they will become engaged. 

Guess what, we “urban moms”, driving our SUVs and shopping at Whole Foods; seem to think we can change the course.  We seem to think that we can remove this kind of play from our childrens' minds and encourage art and sport (the non-violent kind right?) and keep our children happy.  My son, choose not to make the bunny ears in class yesterday ladies, he was too busy building a Star Wars city out of blocks.  Although, he couldn’t call it a Star Wars city, he could not use it as a fortress for an impending battle and heaven forbid there were no sound effects to be heard.  But, he was building, he was thinking about how to balance blocks, engineering a structure, critical thinking and imagining an amazing life behind those walls.  This is how my boy learns.  You ask him to make bunny ears and he will hate school!  I fear this will continue forever and I will end up with a son who needs extra help in school, not because he isn’t smart, but because he has disengaged.

And this brings me to the subject of why our boys are so behind in school.  Maybe it is their slower speed of maturing, maybe it is their bottled up energy and frustration we miss interpret as ADHD, maybe it is the feeling that school is for girls. How many of your children have male role models in school? Maybe the principle, maybe the maintenance guy right?  Most likely it isn’t their teacher who they spend hours a day with.  Why do you think they are SO happy to see daddy at the end of the day? Finally ,someone who relates, right?!  Truth is that, I think we were so worried about getting our girls in school and doing well so that they can put down the apron and have high paying jobs someday, that we have forgotten about our boys.  Well they need us. They need someone to be thinking about their needs. They need to not feel like they are alien or wrong for being interested in something other than art and play dough. 

I blogged a while ago about my son’s obsession with video games. I hated it because he craved it. This was a kid that could barely write his name but could master the first 6 levels of a game designed for 7-13 year olds, in the first 15 minutes.   I think I figured out the obsession.  He was tired of doing the same things as his sister; he craved some form of stimulation in that deep dark part of his brain that makes boys, boys. He wanted to strategize, to battle, to conquer, to compete, to be tactical, to use electronics, and to win.   Why was I so afraid of this? Since my frustrated mommy blog, we have limited the video game time and strive to make it educational.  I have used it to my advantage to get him to do other lessons, some might call it bribery. I say, it worked and it’s working. I have been able to make more strides with my son in the last 3 months than his school has in the last year, just by doing what excites him , what makes him engaged, and trying to understand how he works. 
 I recently found this video/podcast that talks about exactly this. She might be a little radical and maybe take some of this a step too far but I think she is on to something and I encourage you to listen to her and her points. This might land in the hands of the parents and not the schools. At some point the schools cant teach each child differently due to teacher child ratios and budget, etc.  There is also that fine line with violence in schools, especially since Columbine.  At what point do you say that their playing becomes to real?  We need to still be practical about this.

I obviously don’t have all the answers; I just know that something needs to change for our boys. I will continue to be his advocate and encourage his growth through the things he enjoys. I have forwarded my thoughts to his next year Kindergarten teacher who said she has had some stimulating lunchroom conversations about this topic since. She has her questions, she has stated the challenges, and teachers have SO many hurdles! None the less, I love her for entertaining it! I will work with the schools to aim for a change for our boys and I invite others to give thoughts and suggestions on the topic. It is what keeps me motivated and I want to continue to see our men succeed as well as our women.   I also invite the government to find a way to pay teachers more so a man sees a teaching job as a fitting position to provide for a family while doing it. 

There you have it, my off topic random thought. And for those of you that read my post yesterday.  This has nothing to do with my blue fingers. :) That is still to come. 


1 comment:

  1. There's a great book called The Trouble With Boys, all about how our education system needs to change to meet the needs of boys. You can borrow it if you'd like!
    Lisa Andrews