January 19, 2019

What It's Like to Be a Boy

“In just over a month, the boys will start a new school year at three middle schools. As they become tweens, they are reaching a point in their development when peers tend to matter more than parents and pecking orders shift. When, just as boys begin to pull away from their families, they are hit with immense social pressure to be strong and impassive — to fit the masculine mold of toughness. They are about to be tossed into a social ecosystem that prizes alpha males over quirky kids.

Sitting in the booth behind them, their parents know their influence is about to wane.

They know that although their boys are hockey players, they are not typical jocks. Jared wears braces and glasses and is so skinny the outline of his shoulder bones shows through his T-shirt. Grey has blond, wavy hair that falls past his neck and a collection of essential oils at home in his room. Drew spends his spare time studying vocabulary words to prepare for achievement exams. All three came to hockey through the passions of their parents, and it turned into a passion of their own.

Sometimes even excelling at that — a game known for its brutality — doesn’t seem to impress other guys. At Drew’s school, all the soccer and basketball players sit together at lunch. And if he plays his usual hockey position, goalie, during a similar game at gym or recess, things don’t always go well. “When I play goalie I get bullied,” he says. “If I let in one shot, they’re like, ‘Boooooo!’ ””

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