Teen Boys and Their Friends … Sometimes Not So Easy
Okay, Okay… Ease Was the Wrong Word!
Two weeks ago I wrote about the ease of boys friendships, but many parents privately called me out on it. They disagreed that it wasn’t as cut and dry as I claimed it to be. This of course caused me to think deeper about the topic, and I have come to several conclusions:
Boys are more inclusive but they can become exclusive, just not in a girly type way. Their friendship groups tend to form around the activities or sports they play. Much of their lives revolve around these activities or sports and it seems to be more pronounced the older that they get. For instance, my son Gannan had a very tight peer group in elementary school. These guys hung out during lunch and played every game imaginable everyday during recess. They saw each other at the limited sports opportunities that were available for their age group (soccer in the fall, Little League in the spring.) They attended each other’s birthday parties and spent weekend nights playing man hunt in the dark. But as they got older and the opportunities vaster, Gannan’s friends have split off into sub groups. Some play football in the fall, hockey in the winter, lacrosse in the spring. None, not even the boy who picked him up at the starting line years back, runs track. The names of the boys Gannan talks about now, sits with in lunch now, texts on his phone, I hardly recognize. His peer group has changed because his hobbies and interests moved down a path that those elementary buddies didn’t take.
Then there is my other son, Aidan. His experiences with friends have been altogether different. Last week when I said that girls can be downright mean, I was purposely ignoring (perhaps because it is so painful) the horrific bullying that Aidan went through during his elementary years. Perhaps this needs a whole column in itself, but it is worth mentioning here that boys absolutely can be mean as well. In Aidan’s case, boys that he had been friends with for years abandoned him when the alpha male of his grade set his sights on making Aidan’s life a living hell, ergo escaping the living hell themselves. And whether or not this is a “boy’s” trait, Aidan believed to his very core that boys don’t “snitch,” and so the bullying continued for what must have been a very agonizing and long three years. Even then, when a very astute person noticed what was happening and told my husband and me, Aidan denied it because boys “are strong” and having his parents intervene seemed to him to be worse than the bullying itself. Those years of harassment tainted Aidan’s view of how friendship is “supposed” to be, how to make friends, how to keep them and with whom to surround himself. The bullying also tainted some of the boys in Aidan’s class. The stigma of being bullied makes some boys unsure if they want to hang with Aidan. They don’t want to be labeled as a friend of “his” — the kid who was bullied by alpha male. Not all mind you—not all, thank goodness… but some.
So after much prodding by some well meaning readers, I have to recant my absolute statement about the “ease” of boys’ friendships. Antoine St. Exupery once said “Man is a knot into which relationships are tied.” Last week I espoused that women tie those figurative knots. Today after much thought I must say that the word “ease” and “relationships” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence. All human relationships are complicated, cinched in knots that aren’t so easily untied.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed.