I recently watched a documentary titled , ”WHAT ABOUT THE BOY CHILD” produced by Debby Felix and directed by Titi Alpha ( two young ladies) at the IREP film documentary which held in Lagos.
The documentary aimed at understanding the needs of the boy child and the factors in his upbringing that influence who he becomes. It harped on the fact that we have grossly overlooked him, his needs and care, in our bid to ensure gender equality.
It was a mixed audience and coming right on the heels of an earlier documentary “Awani” which looked at the issue of gender inequality it elicited a lot of comments , especially from the men who agreed with the film and said it represented their growing up stories as boys.
The audience had the opportunity to ask the producers questions especially why two young women in this age of feminism were interested in doing a documentary about boys. Their reasons were very revealing and compelling and it was that, we need to ask ourselves how the men are brought up in order to tackle the many issues they present.
They reminded us that the girls we spent so much time grooming and culturing end up with men we have not paid much attention to and this may account for some of the dysfunction in our society.
I noticed, however, that most men in the audience seemed to lay the blame for how they turned out on their upbringing specifically on the fact that mothers (who bring up the children) – both female and male are responsible for how they turn out…What hogwash.
I understood what they were saying and I do agree that mothers have a great role to play in bringing up the children because they spend more time with them but I do think this is an excuse that has been perpetuated through the ages and one that strikes at the very heart of the matter why men are the way they are?
It is true that we mothers have venerated the boy child turning him into a mini-god who ensures that our place as wives in our husband’s home and heart is established.
It is true that we have spoilt him immensely, not allowing him to work in the kitchen, do the so called menial jobs, take responsibility for the home front and thus raised men who expect the woman to do everything in the home which sometimes includes feeding and clothing them. It is true that we have coddled our boys so much that unlike our girls who have no shame in doing any job so far it’s legal and brings food to the table, they look down on certain jobs and insist on a white collar job instead of doing what their hands find to do or doing business instead of taking up paid employment whilst the woman bears the brunt of the dip in family’s finances.
But it is also true that our success at raising the girl child show how men have failed in their own duties in raising their sons. This is not to say that a woman cannot successfully raise sons. A lot of women have done so and will continue to do so but they will be the first to tell you that a boy needs a man in his life. A woman may know what a man should be or do but she doesn’t know what it means to live in a man’s body, she doesn’t understand the things that make him who he is, his feelings, emotions, his self esteem , what drives him, why sex, respect, money/ self esteem are so fundamental and important to him.
Only a man can successfully reach and teach another man, know what he thinks, same as only women really understand what another woman might be going through.
As a woman , I relate very well with my daughter because I was once a girl. I know what it is like to crush on a guy, what the moods brought on by my monthly periods are like etc. Because I knew all this, I could help my daughter through her growing years, confirm that the guy she had a crush on was indeed knee -wobbly worthy, commiserate with her when she had heartbreaks, tell her what a man expects from her and teach her how to care for her siblings, cousins and then husband.
With my son, I don’t fully understand what goes on in his head, how he discerns, perceives and understands the world. So, I did the best I could with my daughter and son but left the bulk of the work of dealing with my son to his father.
I must say that Mr. Aisi was a good father to our children who had a very good rapport with him, better than I had. He was the first parent to hear about all that went on in their lives, the good, the bad and the ugly and many a-time he told me their secrets but swore me to secrecy until they were ready to tell me themselves. When I had fears and concerns about our son, I sent him over and many times over films and football they talked about the issues I was concerned about.
How many men know, really know what it means to be a man. A lot of our fathers were never around to pass the knowledge to them and some of those fathers didn’t even know because their fathers never told them too. A lot of men learn from looking at the examples in the environment and if they are not circumspect they take in both the good and the bad. They have learnt erroneously that men must play around to be men, must learn to hide their emotions if they want to be counted as a man, must not be vulnerable to their spouses or not ask for help in carrying their burdens. We all have erroneous beliefs about what makes a man a man and so I agree with the director and producer of the documentary that if we want a change in the man we must nurture and pay attention to the boy child.
So men, please play your roles, talk to your sons, tell them what being a man really means( if you don’t know find out), teach them responsibility and what it means to be a leader, provider, protector and head of the house.
My sisters and I are tired , we have filled in for you but now request that you be actively involved in raising your sons. Don’t leave your narrative in the hands of your wives, it’s your story, own it and tell it. We can’t teach what we don’t know.