I’m fortunate enough to know lots of boys, as well as other children who have strong opinions about boys. So I asked them this week about boys and boyhood.
Here is what they said:
To the question: What are ‘boy’ things to do?
“Hot Wheels. Girls can play Hot Wheels, too, but I don’t know any who do.”
“Literally, anything that a boy does is something that a boy does. A boy doing it makes it a thing boys do.”
“The bad things that boys do are: chopping down cherry trees but then telling the truth about it. And digging a hole in the yard without permission. The good things that boys do are unloading the dishwasher and taking the dog out.”
“Manly things, but on a smaller scale, like be brave and use your strength to care for people in need. Make sure that weaker people are safe. But these are things everyone should do.”
To the question: How should we treat teenagers who commit crimes?
“How could a teenager commit a crime? Why aren’t their parents paying attention?”
“Parents have to give teenagers a chance to make mistakes, but they shouldn’t be given the chance to make mistakes that ruin their lives. Like, you should be able to trust them not to shoplift if you take them into a store. But you can’t really trust them not to shoot someone if you give them a gun or not to get drunk if you give them alcohol. They’re not responsible enough yet to make those choices.”
“Did they just hurt themselves, like by smoking a cigarette? Or did they hurt someone else? It doesn’t matter how old you are if you hurt someone else–you have to fix it.”
“Teenagers’ brains aren’t developed, so they can’t predict the consequences of their actions. But they can see by looking at someone’s face if they are hurting that person. So if their crime hurt someone else, that other person should get to decide–or at least be part of the decision–about what we do.”
To the question: What does “boys will be boys” mean?
“Of course ‘boys will be boys.’ What else would they be? People just say that when the mean ‘Boys will be jerks.’ Sure, some of them will be, but we shouldn’t encourage them to be. Boys don’t have to be jerks.”
“It means that their parents didn’t raise them right and now don’t want to take responsibility for it.”
“It means someone’s trying to get out of trouble they deserve to be in.”
Above, the cast of The Sandlot, a movie about boys being boys. Spoiler: no one is sexually assaulted, because that’s not an inherent part of boyhood.
Our kids are smarter than Brett Kavanaugh’s defenders suggest.