I am celebrating my eleventh year in education! Honestly, I didn’t realize that I’ve been in this profession as long as I have until I calculated it for this particular blog. For six years, I taught all male students. As my curiosity grew about how to best teach boys, I fervently chased after learning more about gender strategies. The more I taught boys, and the less I taught girls, I was completely sold on brain-based learning. Because boys and girls are wired differently, the delivery has to be tailored in order for each gender to be taught effectively.
As an educator, I’ve had one constant question that has nagged me about adolescent boys. What happens, whether physiologically, physically, emotionally, or mentally, that causes a male African American teen (around the ages of 12-14) to become so angry and rebellious? So many of the Black boys I taught were indeed products of an impoverished single parent home, but that couldn’t be the cause, because I had seen other teen boys on TV with different backgrounds, but the same issue. Well, fortunately for me, a conversation with my own son gave me a peek into the answer I so desperately sought after for so long.
My son is the product of a single parent home, and he’s being raised by a single Black mother. He’s angry. All. The. Time. I know some of this is the result of the divorce. Although my ex-husband was rarely ever home because of his work schedule, or exercise schedule, or “extracurricular” schedule, the fact remains that he knew his dad lived there. Now, he doesn’t. So, he’s angry. Yesterday, my son yelled at his sister about something that was actually his fault. I responded to him with, “what did I tell you about yelling at my daughter?”
With pleading eyes, that looked like they would have been accompanied with a hand caught in the cookie jar, my son responded, “You told me not to.”
“Have you ever heard a man yell at mommy?”
“No. Well yes. Daddy does all the time.”
Because I didn’t anticipate that response (it caught me off guard), it literally took my breath away. But I was in the midst of teaching a lesson here, so I had to keep it rolling.
“Well, how does that make you feel?”
My son balled up his fist (like the Arthur meme), and his eyebrows furrowed in deep thought, then he spat, “It makes me want to punch him for being a jerk to you.”
In that split second. I got it. My son is angry at the person responsible for teaching him how to become a man. My son is angry at the one person who has shaken up his security. My son is angry that his dad is no longer in the home. He’s angry, and I can’t help him.
I listened to my son that day. He poured his heart out about what makes him angry: Why is daddy bringing his new girlfriend around whenever it’s MY time with him? Why can’t you and daddy just forgive each other so we could be a family again? That’s what you tell us (referring to his sister and him) to do. So, I was honest with him. PG, but honest. I never want my words to lose their credibility because I chose to hold back the truth. So, when he asks questions, I answer as clearly and as honestly as possible. Even though all of the answers he has right now are biased because he only gets my side of the story, he deserves the very best I can possibly give him as a mom.
Our sons are angry ya’ll, and we aren’t noticing it until it’s nearly too late. We notice when drugs, gangs, failing grades, and decisions that are so often labeled as typical boy behavior are awry in our son’s lives. I need my prayers to cover him so that when what he believes and what he sees doesn’t align, he’s capable of making wise decisions. I need my son to know that nothing he does or ever will do can stop me from loving him. I need him to find comfort in God’s timing and reasoning. The conversation I had with him let me know that he needs his mom to go to war for his heart, his emotions, his peace of mind, his future as a father, husband, and citizen, his healing. He’s my son, and he’s worth it.
I wish I could have these conversations with his father. If even for just five minutes he could step out of his self-absorbed bubble to think about someone other than himself, then he could hear the cries of his son reaching out for him. Or maybe he hears them, but the cry for a father’s love is so familiar that he runs because his cries were never answered. If I could give him one message to help him see the damage he’s causing his son, it would be, “Pay attention to the seeds you’re sowing. You still hate your father for abusing your mother, for never being there with you, for never telling you that you had so many siblings (that you’re still meeting) and for being a rolling stone. Don’t ask for mercy you won’t give.