Of boys, breasts and abs

When Sonny was younger, around nine to twelve, he was a chubby boy. The minute he got twelve however, pre-teen hood set in. He became worried about his weight, which to me was just so fine for a growing boy.  It suddenly became important that he wasn’t taller, slimmer and did not have a base in his voice tone. I tell you. kids!

Chubby boys will, as a result of all the fat, get breasts. I mean, it just follows that if you are heavy around the torso, that area too will fill– outward. But besides this, Sonny’s father (R.I.P) had had a problem of that kind at the same age, and in his older years, it  reduced but did not go away altogether. He had also had problems with it in teen age hood, to the extend of shunning sports because t-shirts then were made with such material that exposed nipples. We do bring up our boys with terrible manners in Kenya. This bullying issue is sadistic but inbred in many men from boyhood, as a “manly” and acceptable type of behavior.

gym weightsAnyway, my Sonny would not rest. He wanted to do sit ups, weight lifting, whatever he could, to burn the flab as fast as he could. However, his age would not permit him to tire himself senseless. This desire to look masculine would not leave him. So I sat him down and explained that he would grow out of it. I even brought him printouts from work, which  explained that this was such a normal phenomenon among boys his age, the world over. I also explained that sometimes if it was extreme, an operation or hormonal treatment was done, to reduce the breast size permanently. This calmed him down. I then made printouts and bought him books about the development of the body of a young man. We discussed and laughed about various changes he and My Baby would have, as they grew into teen age hood.

At that time, both were young and it was all a funny topic. Breaking voices, growing beards, being shy in girls’ presence, chasing girls later, getting all hairy all over….all these were jokes then. We took to looking at slightly older teen relatives and neighbors, and noting what processes they were going through. Believe me, it was funny. These are some of the wonderful moments I have had, in the wonderment of growing with my loves.

At thirteen, Sonny joined secondary school and for the first time lived away from me. It was traumatic. We were all unhappy, despite the fact that it was a national school back home and that really the environment was healthy. Still, Sonny underwent some bullying which is the norm in Kenyan secondary schools. Sonny was used to an environment that had empathy, love , kindness and understanding. He was now faced with people that did not honor empathy, kindness and understanding, nor care about love too much. What are we breeding? Not little gentlemen that’s for sure. No wonder Kenyan men are getting known for being beastly!

A mother has to be patient and understanding and very prayerful when she has growing boys. They are susceptible to so much bad influence. So I wrote Sonny frequently, ensured he had loads of money and goodies, entreated him to keep his faith and hopes high….all that I thought would alleviate his fears and worries.

The damage though, was done. Sonny hated the system, he disliked having teachers who dealt with the boys with impunity, some not attending all classes, or being unprepared. Some had wars with the headmaster and it showed and the students were affected by this. The students got affected by the resultant lack of quality teaching.

The plus thing about the school was the environment. Also, the food and the effect of the older successful athletes on their younger schoolmates was encouraging. Some good was bred in them due to the fact that their local area heroes were humble yet so rich , and did so much for their community development. Unfortunately, the local community could say only so much about the level of school affairs.

Takes me back to the issue I wrote about some time back. Who will stand up to be counted among my brother– Kenyan men of valor? Where are these men to set good examples for our sons? I am not saying none are present. They are mostly in history books. We need more of them closer home, among us, in our every day lives. Sonny, gradually settled in a bit that first term. Being an amicable, cheerful and self determined child, he forged friendships with older boys very fast. He was also unique in that he had lived abroad for so long. This endeared him to boys who wanted to hear about and understand the experience of living in another country.

When Sonny came for that first April holiday, his height had shot up by almost a whole foot. Over the years, he has grown to be almost six feet tall. He became lanky and I was glad he wasn’t worried about breasts and abs any more. He had no flab. Being in an environment that breeds Kenya’s world class runners, he entered into a fray of sports, and exercise. That and lots of good food and fresh air, encouraged his growth rate to shoot up. My little boy had entered teen age hood. He took on a new walk, newfound confidence and assertiveness, and was adamant about what he would take and what he wouldn’t. Lucky for me, he was still as loving, kind , helpful and understanding as before. Those Godly virtues, were enhanced by the church influence in the school.

I am lucky that went well. I will not have to go through all that with My Baby. Growing is fun. What about you, how is it with your boys, their breasts and abs (or lack of them?). Wish you luck with Kazi ya Kulea.

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Emerald Sua is a Christian single mother who prides herself as a voluntary organizational guru for lives, systems, situations and homes.