I’m blessed to have been given the awesome charge of mothering both a daughter and a son. My daughter is the first-born. I remember dancing to Beyoncé’s Who Runs the World and reading Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Girls Hold Up This World with her at a very early age.
In 4th grade, while exploring middle schools, we only considered single-sex schools as studies showed they were the best environment for girls to thrive.
By the summer after 6th grade, she was headed to Girls Leadership Camp, where she returned with tools to skillfully navigate increasingly complex relationships, always confidently using her voice and being brave.
She has t-shirts that say I’m powerful and mugs with mantras “Strong, Smart and Bold.” She’s been surrounded by aunties and swarms of my sorority sisters since birth.
Now as a 9th grader, she owns a copy of “We Should All Be Feminists” and was Angela Davis for Halloween. She is fierce with intention and design.
I consider myself doubly blessed to mother a son. We learned at an early age that he loved sports! There wasn’t a sport he tried that he did not like and couldn’t naturally do well, but by the age of 3, it was evident basketball was his love and passion.
He began playing at the YMCA on Saturdays and by 2nd grade, he was playing on 3 teams: recreational, his elementary school’s, and a 3rd grade AAU team. His life as a scholar-athlete had just begun.
When his sister made the move to an independent single-sex school, he made it known that he desired an all-boys educational environment for himself because girls are “bossy.”
As he approached middle school, I knew it was time to find spaces to help him develop his leadership capacity as I had done previously with his sister. We considered the Boy Scouts but he wasn’t interested so we didn’t push it. While I have a few summer programs for him for the future, I was surprised at how very little was available for our boys beyond sports in middle school.
In 2015 I attended a symposium, Understanding Boys. It was a game changer.
It opened my eyes to appreciate that boys are different and shouldn’t be judged based on girls as the gold standard of good behavior. So when my son is physical and loud, I understand and appreciate now that it’s his way of telling me he misses and loves me deeply and wants to spend time with me.
Boys have specific needs and it is the responsibility of the adults in their lives to understand what is needed to bring out the best in them.
Recently I attended a youth leadership conference in the dual role as a parent accompanying my children and a sponsor. In the midst of a sea of men in suits, I noticed my son was uncomfortable; he was out of his comfort zone in the very place he should feel understood.
While I naturally created a village of wise women for my daughter, I realized I had not done the same for my son. And I owed that to him.
I learned I have to be deliberate about cultivating a community of males for my son.
In my own personal conversations, my girlfriends and I often say that girls need the support to compete in a man’s world and so why would boys need help? Although it receives less attention, boys are struggling.
Women now represent 56% of college students. According to the Education Department Reports, men are more likely to drop out and have lower graduation rates. Men are not making it to the finish line.
Boys are four times as likely as girls to be suspended or expelled from grades K-12.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death of males in America and they occur four times the rate of girls.
These statistics are alarming. Our boys need us to advocate for them and change the current trajectory.
There is the old adage that mothers love their sons and raise their daughters, suggesting we hold very different standards for girls and boys. We coddle our sons and ensure our daughters are capable. The disparity is painfully obvious. It’s time for us to begin raising our sons too!
When we hear the news stories on sexual assault or mass shootings, males are most likely the perpetrators. We have to question what it is about our culture that is cultivating entitlement, abuse of power, disregard for others, and recklessness in males.
I want my son to be equally as amazing as my daughter.
I want our families to be stronger because our men are actively engaged in leading them and building the next generation of strong men.
I Co-founded Partnership for Boys to be a solution. This work cannot be done in isolation so I joined forces with Clyde Cole, an expert on educating boys and a passionate servant leader. This powerful combination of Mother’s wit and practitioner is the core of a collaboration where the healthy development of boys is our driving force.
We created Partnership for Boys for my son Ryan and the millions of boys just like him. Our mission is to develop driven, engaging, resilient and responsible boys and young men.
We reach boys through partnering with parents, schools, and school systems to support them and cultivate environments where they thrive.
We want boys to lead with love, empathy, wisdom, and self-control with a clear vision for their bright futures and a strategy to get them there.
We want them to have the courage to withstand life’s challenges and difficulties and the strength to persevere. Our families, communities, and world will be stronger as a result.
Jasmine Bellamy is the mother of two and the co-founder of Partnership for Boys, Inc