The day my teen brother ‘pulled’ a stunt that an­gered me

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

I had to go through a learn­ing curve while try­ing to men­tor my brother

INOW KNOW what it feels like to be em­bar­rassed, dis­re­spected and heart­bro­ken by a loved one. I hope to some ex­tent you re­late to what I am about to tell you.

I am the founder of the Young Men Move­ment (YMM). This is a move­ment es­tab­lished in the beau­ti­ful, small vil­lage of Pankop, in Mpumalanga. Ba­si­cally, the main aim of the move­ment is to men­tor and em­power young boys to be­come men of in­tegrity.

I have a lit­tle brother whom, be­sides the un­de­ni­able neg­li­gence of the young boys in my com­mu­nity, was the rea­son why I had to start YMM.

I feared see­ing him falling into the same pit that swal­lowed many of my peers when we were teenagers. I wanted to pro­tect him from the un­avoid­able re­bel­lion that comes with be­ing a teenage boy. I wanted to equip him and his friends with tools that will help them nav­i­gate teen­hood with a bit of eas­i­ness and in­sight, be­cause I have been there.

I cre­ated a plat­form that would give him new friends, a space that would be com­fort­able for him to ex­press him­self and hang around like-minded peo­ple. And, oh boy, this was achieved, and YMM is that ve­hi­cle that drives change, cap­tures the at­ten­tion of young men and gives him and many other vil­lage boys a haven.

How­ever, I did not know how far a teenager can go in be­ing a teenager. Or, how a boy will al­ways be a boy, as I was told sev­eral times af­ter what I call a mind-open­ing mo­ment.

At YMM, we teach morals, prin­ci­ples, good be­hav­iour, self re­spect, re­spect for oth­ers, fam­ily val­ues, im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion, God-given tal­ents and many other great build­ing blocks.

I have wit­nessed the good­ness the YMM team is do­ing. I have seen the pos­i­tive im­pact of the team in the lives of these lads.

Un­til Satur­day af­ter­noon, when a ses­sion of YMM was in progress and my lit­tle brother went against ev­ery­thing I have taught him, the prin­ci­ples of my life, and that of the move­ment.

This 17-year old brought his girl­friend home. I’m 26. I have never, not even once, in­tro­duced my girl­friend to my fam­ily, let alone bring her to my house. It is taboo in our black cul­ture. At least where I come from.

This was tak­ing place in full view of my mentees from YMM. As I watched him walk through the gate, with a girl who looked a year or two younger than him, I lis­tened to him dis­guise her as his phys­i­cal sciences “tu­tor”. They walked into the house as his hand draped her shoul­der. The eyes of the YMM boys popped, their jaws dropped and all waited to see how I was go­ing to re­act.

My lit­tle brother loudly told the boys that what­ever I am teach­ing them, does not ap­ply to him. He vi­o­lated ev­ery­thing I stand for and con­tin­u­ously teach.

I of­ten hear sto­ries from par­ents nar­rat­ing the bad be­havioural ten­den­cies of their teenage kids. Some end up in hos­pi­tal, some die from heart fail­ures or fall into de­pres­sion. I was bro­ken in­side at the sight of what my lit­tle brother was do­ing. I was help­less. I was speech­less. I still have not said a word to him about Satur­day to this day. Yet, I see him ev­ery day.

It didn’t end there. He went straight to his bed­room, broad day­light, the tu­tor­ing was not tak­ing place in the study room or at least in the lounge or dining area, it was be­hind a locked bed­room door.

In­deed, fa­mil­iar­ity breeds com­pla­cency. Be­cause the 15-year old him would have never thought of pulling such a stunt in my pres­ence.

I wanted to cut him out of YMM com­pletely, but again, he is a teenager, and ac­cord­ing to so­ci­ety, it is ac­cept­able for a teen-boy to get up to mis­chief.

There is also a Tswana proverb that goes: “Ng­wana phosa dira ga a bo­lawe”, which loosely trans­lated means: “The value of restora­tive jus­tice to the rein­te­gra­tion of of­fend­ers.”

I re­mem­ber he once said: “There is so much pres­sure in be­ing your lit­tle brother. Be­cause you are prin­ci­pled, you have morals and you do amaz­ing work in the com­mu­nity, and peo­ple ex­pect a lot from me by virtue of be­ing your lit­tle brother.”

This is sad, be­cause he feels trapped and some­how what I thought was a bless­ing for him, which is me be­ing a good ex­am­ple, is turn­ing out to be a curse. Per­haps this is a learn­ing curve for all of us, as par­ents, un­cles, big broth­ers, sis­ters and men­tors.

No mat­ter how mad, em­bar­rassed, hu­mil­i­ated and how much of a fail­ure I feel, what mat­ters the most is en­sur­ing he turns out to be a young man of in­tegrity, a moral com­pass to his peers and a prin­ci­pled man in the fu­ture.

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