The Boychild; Transitioning Alone
-By: Amifel Eribo
“Oh Folakemi, look how big you are now! How old are you?”
“Ah, you must be very careful now o!”
“You must not let any boy touch you”
“You must always keep clean”
“You must always dress decently”
“You must… you must….”
There’s no doubt that every one of us knows at least one girl who has had those very words and, in some cases, similar words, said to them. Interestingly, some even make it seem as though it is a sort of “rite of passage” for girls, especially African girls. Therefore, we hear of such statements being drilled into young girls, especially by their mothers, their occasional over-zealous aunties, teachers and sometimes their fathers. These girls hear these same things time after time that it almost becomes a melody, surprisingly so sweet that they could even sing it in their sleep.
But one might ask, why? Why is the fight to “getting it right” when it comes to the female child, so strongly fought for? A few might answer with the opinion that somehow, maybe it is because the female child is presumed weak, or maybe it is because of how vulnerable the society makes them seem or maybe they just deserve everyone’s attention.
Are they right? Maybe, maybe not. But, when one sees narratives like this, it does beg the question, What about the boy child? Does he not need similar guiding principles? What about his attention?
A close look at things then makes one wonder how and why most times people seem so passionate about raising the girl child so right, with so much virtue and standard but then these same people seem to be almost next to unbothered when it comes to doing the same for the boy child.
This then makes one ponder on the kind of society “these people” hope to build, when a majority of said society, seems unprepared as they are left to “wing it” as they grow as a result of transitioning alone.
At this point, you must already have an idea of what ‘transitioning alone’ means or looks like. But here’s this: ‘Transitioning alone’ as a boy child refers to a situation where there’s an absence of that essential guiding presence a boy would require especially as he transitions from the early stages of his life to the next. This, therefore, causes him to be his early life guide.
You see, for boys, there isn’t exactly a natural kind of initiation into manhood, unlike in girls, where there is usually a defined event, like a first menstrual cycle to mark her passage into womanhood. Puberty in boys is best described practically as a physiological change and transition into adulthood which usually starts between ages 9 and 14.
Some of these changes when they do occur are quite subtle and might be easily overlooked. While others like sperm production, wet dreams, developed sexual urges, are far from subtle and would raise questions in the heart of the boy child. For these reasons, conversations about them must be had.
This call to action also applies to the topic of sex or personal grooming and hygiene. We must remember that at that stage, just like the girl child, a lot is going on in their bodies and initiating such conversations in the least awkward way possible, lets them know that they can turn to someone for support, guidance and information that they will need during this very important stage of their life.
Again, some might wonder, when would be the best time to initiate that conversation with the boy child? Here’s this: in an ideal world, it is advisable to start talking about these transitions to the boy child before he even gets to those stages. So, although the timing of puberty would be different for every child, the sequence of changes is much more predictable. There is usually a pattern of changes that we can expect to see in males (which can be emotional and/or physical), that will pre-warn us that puberty is on its way.
When we think of the emotional signs of puberty, we tend to think of them only happening in females. But they do happen in males too, especially at the very beginning before you start to see physical changes. So, you may begin to see mood swings as their body adapts to the surge of hormones they are now experiencing. Some start to act more impulsively during puberty. These signs can give you a hint.
However, noticing these signs only seems possible for people who would be in close contact with the boy child in question. But of course, more signs would slowly become apparent to everyone. This is where the same enthusiasm mostly directed by other members of a society in grooming and guiding the girl child, can and should be directed also to the boy child.
The fact is, by avoiding these conversations with the boy-child, we become guilty of depriving him of accurate information that he needs as regards his transitions, budding sexuality and the media. This, therefore, leads him to seek answers from his (most times misguided) friends and the internet… and we all know how that ends most times. Therefore, we are reminded to be intentional and consistent about these conversations with them. But try not to be a pest or a weirdo about it, please? Thank you!
Finally, in most African settings, it is often said that it takes a whole community to raise a child. Well, a boy is a child. So, let’s all together, raise him, guide him and not leave him to live or transition alone. He needs us too!
I hope this is loud enough for those at the back.