When Boys Become Men

When exactly do little boys transition to wanting to become men?

My son, Jonathan, who is only 9 years old said to me today, “I want to be a man and not a wimpy boy.”

Those 11 little words put fear in my heart.

Ever since his brother, Tre, started kindergarten this year, the Man Thing has been telling him that it his (Jonathan’s) responsibility to look after his little brother on the bus and at school. Jonathan has taken that responsibility to heart and will not allow anyone to bully, pick at, or touch his baby brother. That itself is commendable, I agree, but should we allow Jonathan to get himself into trouble in order to protect his brother?

The bus driver was speaking to Tre on the bus yesterday morning. According to Jonathan and Tre, he was just talking to his seat mate and not bothering anyone else or doing anything he should not be doing. He must have said or done something, however, to bring him to the driver’s attention and have him speak to him. Jonathan became extremely upset when he realized what was going on and stood up in his seat and yelled at the driver to leave his brother alone. When the bus driver confronted Jonathan, he refused to back down and refused to sit down (until he was good and ready to that is). Apparently, as the bus driver turned to walk back to the front of the bus, Jonathan uttered something along the lines of, “If I get in trouble because of this I’m going to kill you/kill myself.” Only Jonathan knows exactly what he said and he’s not talking.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that Jonathan has issues with dealing with his anger. He is quick to get angry (as is his father) and he still has not mastered just how to deal with those feelings when they arise. His first instinct is to lash out – to scream at the person, to hit, to kick, to punch. I have been trying for years to give him alternate methods of dealing with these outbursts – like shredding paper, bouncing a ball, running laps, anything I can think of to help him burn off that anger until a cool head prevails again. It’s hard for him having ADHD because even with his medication he takes daily, he has a really difficult time keeping his impulses in check and thinking before he acts (which he gets from me, unfortunately).

The Man Thing tells him to stand his ground and fight in school if somebody is bothering him or messing with him. That’s what he did. I don’t agree with that. I tell him that if somebody is messing with him at school or bullying him, then he needs to inform the teacher and just walk away from the individual and put space between them. That’s what I did.

But according to my son, that’s being a wimp and he’s not a wimp. He would rather stand his ground and fight like a man – even though he doesn’t weigh 70 pounds soaking wet and he knows he’ll get his butt whooped every time. He would still rather take his licks and end up going to the office for fighting then just walk away from the situation and allow tempers to simmer down.

As a mother, this scares me. Am I being overly protective? Should I allow him to act in this manner, hoping that perhaps after two or three fights he’ll realize mom’s right and dad’s wrong? Or am I right? Am I the one who is wrong in my thinking of how to deal with these situations? My main objective – in any situation – is to protect my children. So naturally I don’t want him fighting and coming home with busted lips or black eyes.

But when do you let go? When do you stop treating them like little boys and let them start to spread their wings? Is this something that boys just go through? Is it a phase that will wear off? Is it something that, being a woman, I just don’t *get* and probably never will? Is this something where I need to defer to the man of the house and let him deal with this situation?

I need some advice here people. What say you?

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