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I AM JUST A BOY, I AM NOT A BURDEN (AN ESSAY BY JOHN CHIZOBA VINCENT)

This statement fell out from his mouth as his mother struck him with a whip repeatedly while he twisted on the ground. He shouted at the top of his voice defending his manity. There on the other side of the street, I stood, watching him endure and fight to be freed from his mother’s grip.

I watched trembling and thought of a way to rescue him. But, in my country, you don’t buy wares you can’t sell at the end of the day. How do we then fold our breaths and pocket our tears after seeing this kind of anomaly? Is this not enough reason to feign death in the arms of the air when you are seen as a burden by the same woman that births you?

I learned later that he was being beaten because he crossed a major road with his sister without holding her hand. The sister in question was not given a single stroke of the whip. She witnessed her brother’s bastardisation as an innocent bystander.

Do tears and agony reflect the essence of living? Are we always meant to substitute laughter for tears and joy for sadness as boys? A giving day, week of deadly pains, a giving sun, harshness of the rocky plains. How do we define torture in the hands of those who are meant to safeguard us, how?

When a five years boy is told that he is old enough to take care of himself, when a ten years old boy is told how to build his own family, when a seven years old boy is told how to take care of his sister, how to defend her, how to make her not think more of their parents ‘absence; then,  desperation will set in and confusion will table notes of submission in his eyes.

I once heard a woman said to another woman who had three kids, all boys:

“Wow,  boys! You must be really busy! I bet it is a lot of work, having all boys!”

So, are boys really a ‘special’ burden to raise? Is Life itself is a lot of work. Is parenting itself is a lot of work. Is raising girls also not a lot of work? What useful thing in this world does not require lots of work? Why just boys? Why not children?

We may seem stubborn in nature, we may seem to be stronger and more likely to protest for what we think and believe is right. But does this make us a special burden to society or our families? It gets a little tiring hearing our parents suggest this on a regular basis.

If we often get dirty, if we often make trouble or if we give often make problems for our parents, is it not because it is normal for children to be so by nature?

Some questions worry me about this issue:

  • Is there really a marked difference (special challenges) between raising boys and girls?
  • Why do parents (and the society at large) act as if girls come from Venus and boys come from Mars?
  • Why was that boy being beaten black and red while his sister sat by, honourably smiling, even though they had committed the same offense?

Yes, they crossed the main road together. He was being beaten because he was a boy and was expected to guide his sister or rather hold his sister’s hand – as the man – before they cross.

Was his sister pardoned because she wasn’t old enough to cross the road herself? Was the boy beaten because, as a society claims, boys are stronger than the girls and should defend them always?

Is there really a big gender gap between these children?

Steve Biddulph, an Australia children psychologist made a lot of money convincing people that the two sexes are divergent that we need to buy entirely different books to help raise them properly.

Ultimately, it is clear that stereotypes exist in raising children because they reflect the realities we see daily life. Indeed there is really prejudice in our society with regards to raising children, and we are increasingly favoring girls over boys. We need to change this.

I am not really sure if there is an extra burden in parenting boys or girls. Maybe when I become a father I may see from another view.

Author: John Chizoba Vincent

John chizoba vincent hail from Nkporo in Abia state. He is a poet, novelist and director.

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