July 27, 2009

The Secret Lives of Boys

Earl W., a blog subscriber in Tucson, came across a book review in the New York Times for: The Secret Lives of Boys: Inside the Raw Emotional World of Male Teens. The Times reviewer, Lori Gottlieb, said the book was, ". . . raw, emotional, funny, and astute." I found another review by Rachel Saslow at The Washington Post where she said, "The book ends up feeling more like a sociology lecture than the inside look at a 'raw, emotional world' that it promises to be." Contradictory opinions, but there you have life around teenage boys.

Malina Saval, the author of the book, profiles 10 young men. She lets each young male tell his own story. By the way of proof that there is no such thing as a normal adolescent male, these 10 young guys run the full spectrum of the boy universe. The boy's lives reflect mental health issues, amazingly dysfunctional family histories, drug abuse, too young parents . . . and much more. According to the author,all this diverse group of lads had in common was a desire for a true connection. Someone they could have a real conversation with about their painfully challenging lives.

As anyone working with adolescent males knows, they initially don't come across as verbal or self-aware. What you also learn about boys, given enough time and trust, is that most boys will, and in fact are hungry to open up. When that happens their stories are indeed raw, mostly truthful, smell a little of testosterone and bravado, and are very often profoundly emotional.

However imperfectly the book is written, the boy stories do indeed offer a peak into the rich and challenging lives of young males everywhere. In truth, the boys Saval profiles are not so different from the boys in the world around you. If you're thinking about getting involved in Man-Making work at any level, you may want to get this book.

I you have read this book, please share your thoughs with us via an email to me or by commenting on this post.

July 22, 2009

What is a Boy?

I have always loved this poem:

“Boys are found everywhere-on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging from, running around or jumping to. Mothers love them, little girls hate them, older sisters and brothers tolerate them, adults ignore them and Heaven protects them. A boy is Truth with dirt on its face, Beauty with a cut on its finger, Wisdom with bubble gum in its hair and the Hope of the future with a frog in its pocket.”

I have finally tracked down what I think is the rest of the poem, just below. It was apparently written by Alan Beck in 1949. Here is the whole work. If you have different or more information, please let me know.

What is a Boy?

Boys come in assorted sizes, weights, and colors. They are found everywhere – on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging from, running around or jumping to. Mothers love them, little girls hate them, older brothers and sisters tolerate them, adults ignore them and Heaven protects them.

A boy is Truth with dirt on its face, Wisdom with bubblegum in its hair and Hope of the future with a frog in its pocket. A boy has the appetite of a horse, the digestion of a sword swallower, the energy of a pocket size atomic bomb, the curiosity of a cat, the lungs of a dictator, the imagination of Paul Bunyan, the shyness of a violet, the audacity of a steel trap, the enthusiasm of a firecracker, and when he makes something he has five thumbs on each hand.

He likes ice cream, knives, saws, Christmas, comic books, the boy across the street, woods, water (in its natural habitat), large animals, Dad, trains, Saturday mornings, and fire engines. He is not much for Sunday school, company, schools, books without pictures, music lessons, neckties, barbers, girls, overcoats, adults, or bedtime.

Nobody else is so early to rise or so late to supper. No one else can cram into one pocket a rusty knife, a half eaten apple, three feet of string, an empty Bull Durham sack, two gumdrops, six cents, a slingshot, a chunk of unknown substance, and a genuine supersonic code ring with a secret compartment.

A boy is a magical creature – you can lock him out of your workshop, but you can’t lock him out of your heart. You can get him out of your study, but you can’t get him out of your mind. Might as well give up - he is your captor, your jailer, your boss and your master – a freckle faced, pint sized bundle of noise. But when you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams, he can mend them with two words – “Hi Dad!”

July 6, 2009

A Man-Making Aha Moment

I'm fond of saying that on Rite of Passage Weekends my heart is melted and reformed in a way that makes me a better man. That's really just the tip of the iceberg, but it captures all the wonderful experiences that touch and reshape a man in those events.

On those weekends, there is usually a single moment in time when a man gets it. When he suddenly realizes that he is very much in the right place and doing work he is uniquely qualified to do for and with boys. I call that the Man-Making Aha Moment!

Of course, given the scope of the internet these days, there is a website, sponsored by the Mutual of Omaha, given solely to these Aha Moments. On that site, a man-maker named Jefferson Roanoke describes his experience on a weekend with boys. You can see and listen to Jefferson describe his Aha moment at this link.

I just love watching the look on his face as he describes what happened to him during the experience. You can believe me when I say there is a growing army of men, showing up for boys, and coming away from those experiences with a very similar smile.

If you've had an Aha Man-Making Moment like Jefferson, and can describe it, send it to me in an email or post a comment on this post. I always love reading about men growing larger hearts.