What do you see?

Just for fun, I thought, we’d find some statistics, some boy-related numbers (and girl-related, for next month’s girl issue). Stats that might make you think, “Huh, I didn’t know that,” as you’re flipping through this month’s Minnesota Parent. So I sent our staff writer, Monica, off to troll the reputable survey sites.

The next day, she looked glum. “It’s not good,” she said. Numbers are remarkably malleable things, I know, but the numbers Monica found were hard to read. Boys are five times more likely to commit suicide than girls and twice as likely to die in car accidents. They are less likely to graduate from college and more likely to skip classes and drop out. They’ve outpaced girls in obesity rates, marijuana use, and binge drinking.

Where, I asked, was the good news? “Well,” Monica said, “Boys do have a 4- to 5-point IQ advantage.” Hm. Thank goodness for that.

Is that what we see when we look at our boys? Young lives fraught with danger? Ne’er-do-wells, and worse? Kris Berggren urges us to “start seeing boys” in her Teens and Tweens column this month. She means start seeing them in all their messy individuality, beyond the stereotypes and the sad statistics – so that we can do what she calls the “hard work” of helping our own sons and the boys around us to overcome those statistics.

Right now, when I see boys, I see my own 2-year-old, who is deep in a “My do it!” phase and who solves every interpersonal problem with a demand for “Big hug!” And I see the beautiful, open faces of the fourth- and fifth-grade boys from the Interdistrict Downtown School on our cover. These boys roared into the room where we shot the photo, their arms wrapped around their friends’ shoulders in obvious affection. And when we asked them to get closer together in the square, they squeezed in with the joy and enthusiasm you see in the picture.

Let’s keep seeing these boys.

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