Saturday, April 17, 2010

Boys Will Be Boys Will Be Deported

There’s an old saying that “boys will be boys.”  The new version holds that “boys will be drugged and deported.”

That might be one conclusion to be drawn from the sad saga of Artem Saviliev, the seven-year-old adopted lad whose American mom sent him back unescorted  to Russia with a note pinned to his jacket saying she didn’t want him anymore.

Torry Hansen, his adoptive mother, claimed little Artem was dangerously violent.  Grandma said he’d threatened to burn the house down.  But really, how threatening can a seven-year-old be?  Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights found no evidence of pathological behavior when his experts examined the kid.

If little Artem were actually setting fires, and not just threatening to, that might be evidence of some pretty severe disturbances.  But I suspect that most grade-school boys have at one time or another verbally threatened to kill mom or dad, blow up the school, or at least blast teacher with a giant death ray.

Was Artem really a bomb waiting to explode, or just a boy letting off steam?

The incident reminds me of a family in my church that came to me for counseling.  Their second-grader--let’s call him Liam--had stolen another child’s crayon and ripped up the classmate’s drawing.  A team of psychiatrists, social workers, school bureaucrats and law enforcement types had been called in to assess the young delinquent.  The parents were frantic.  What was wrong with their boy, to engage in such anti-social conduct?

I told them they ought to be defending their youngster, who shouldn’t have stolen the crayon, but hadn’t exactly committed the crime of the century, either, and would probably be stigmatized for his entire educational career if they allowed the authorities to have their way.

Part of their plan would doubtless have included dosing Liam with Ritalin or other psychoactive medication.  Vermont and New Hampshire lead the nation in the percentage of children who take these drugs—often at the insistence of school officials who find boys too boisterous and easier to control in the classroom when they’re on dope.

As an adoptive parent, my sympathies are all with Artyem and Liam.  And as a man, I can well recall pulling pranks as a kid that now might land my own children in court.  Have boys changed so much?   I think it’s society that’s changed—and not for the better.

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