Raising a Mama's Boy?
I've been reading, "The Mama's Boy Myth, Why Keeping our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger," by Kate Stone Lombardi, and it made me wonder if I owe you an apology?
For years I have been encouraging mothers to "let their sons go towards men."
What I mean by this is for moms to take every opportunity to encourage their sons to 'hang out' with dad, uncles, elders, coaches, etc. -- even when they are longing to spend their own time with him.
Best case, your boy is able to TELL YOU WHEN he needs his dad.
A mom called me because her son (8 yo) was having an overnight hospital stay and only one person could be with him.
Mom called to ask me- nay, wanted me to TELL HER that she should be the one to stay with their son. When I asked her what her son had said, "Oh, he said he wants his dad to stay with him."
"Well, there's your answer," I said.
She didn't like that, not one bit.
SHE wanted to be the one to stay with him - FOR HER - not for her son. That's the rub.
When are you deciding for HIM - and when are you deciding for yourself?
She clearly wasn't ready to "let her son go towards men."
Boys carry the question their entire lives: "What is it to be a man?"
Mom and other women are the primary influence in a young boys' life - often up through the end of elementary school.
This influence is vital - but it also means our boys miss out on having their primary "What is it to be a man" question answered each and every day.
Now the apology.
I apologize if I've led moms to believe that they should 'back off' or 'opt out' of mothering their sons.
No, not that.
I encourage you, dear mama, to balance your influence - even off-set - your influence and make sure there are strong, good men around to influence him, too.
And be ready to defer to them, more often than you might like.
In her book, Lombardi comments that moms are often looked at askance when they are "too close" to their boys.
Here's what some Boys Alive! Facebook moms have experienced:
"I was told I shouldn't be walking my son into class or waiting by the classroom at the end of the day to pick him up. He still wanted me to do this so I kept doing so. At the end of the day you're his mother, and you need to do what's right for you and your son!! And bugger what anyone else says."
"My boy is 12 now and no he doesn't need me to walk into class with him anymore( though I do ask every now and then lol) but I stopped doing so when it was right for him not when everyone else told me to!"
"My almost 9 still asks to snuggle on a daily basis. I'm gonna snuggle as long as he wants because I know there will come a time he quits asking."
Moms do experience some push-back from husbands and others, "You're babying him” or "You're going to make him a girl."
In the research for her book, Lombardi, uncovered a deep cultural fear that by holding our boys close, they will be 'sissies.'
This cultural fear, she writes, "...diminishes or ignores anything positive that women can and do contribute to their boys. It leaves both mothers and sons feeling confused and anxious about their relationship. And because of this distorted lens, the mother-son relationship has become the only parent-child combination in which closeness is viewed so critically and with such suspicion."
We know we want fathers and other men to be "role models in teaching emotional literacy" to our boys. The problem is - many men weren't raised to articulate their feelings. In many cases, men just don't have it to give - they haven't been shown the way.
That's where mom comes in.
If she's alert and aware, (and gentle about it) she can also help dad/husband/parenting partner to learn emotional literacy right alongside her sons.
In a study of how boys switch from being emotionally expressive as young boys to adopting a more 'tough-guy' approach as a young man, a researcher discovered the "one major factor that mitigates boys' move toward toughness and autonomy is their closeness to their moms."
So, moms, celebrate your son and the emotional warmth you bring to him. Your nurturing and communication skills give him the tools he needs to be that next generation of fathers who really can help their sons express their emotional literacy, alongside of you.
And then he'll have even more answers to his fundamental question: "What is it to be a man?"
Another great book on building your boy's emotional vocabulary is: "Boy Talk: How You Can Help Your Son Express His Emotions" by Mary Polce-Lynch.
Kate Lombardi, author of "The Mama's Boy Myth" also wrote THIS BLOG POST about her son who is getting married. She concludes, "I'm not losing a son. I'm gaining a daughter."
Icing on the cake!
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