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