A boy’s introduction to life is directly through his mother’s body. She sustains his life and he is mostly in bliss. The force that sustains this relationship is extraordinary in its power, love, and influence. On a visceral level, his body is different from hers… Positive or negative, his emotional framework has started here. Mother is primary and her job is to stay the course so that her boy will stay connected to her.
At the early time of life, fathers must work hard at maintaining a close connection to his infant son. Fathers do not share the same kind of closeness in these early years. However, father’s support is important. As a son grows, the tie to his mother becomes fragile in terms of how close a boy may stay to his mother. A push-pull dynamic occurs which is confusing for both of them. As close as the son has been to mom, he pulls away and it can be painful. Our cultural values honor restraint and withdrawal. The paradox is that at the same time mother is asked to continue to actively nurture her young. Barbra Streisand sings to her son, “I’ve watched you grow so I could let you go.”
Cry baby, mama’s boy, don’t coddle him, tied to apron strings, are messages that boys cope with in our society. What has always been assumed for him as natural, an overly involved mother-son relationship now becomes unsettling. Lo and behold, unconscious separations have begun and cultural expectations have gotten in the way. The disconnect from this relationship from mother can become a primary violation in a little boy’s life. How can he learn to be in a mutual loving relationship when society says otherwise?
Boys are always learning and determining the kinds of women they will look for as they seek out their female relationships. Boys continually learn and see how their fathers and male role models respond to his mother. This is an important piece, and as time goes on fathers are instrumental in their son’s life. Mothers need to keep this in mind.
Valuing relational skills can make huge outcomes for both boys and girls. Boys will respect girls as they value and respect their mothers. In the end, all relationships need boundaries and the ability to recognize that relationships are never static. There is a cycle of connection-disconnection-new connection and working through this process that changes and enhances our lives for mothers and sons and all of us. An important paradigm shown to us from the Stone Center Women at Wellesley College is that any relationship needs a zest or vitality, accurate picture of one’s self and the other, an increased sense of self-worth and increased desire and ability to act in connection.
A few valuable tips for moms:
- Recognize your importance in your son’s life and foster the ability to remain close.
- Understand that the separation process is inherently appropriate and moms be sensitive that you will need to work hard at moving toward your son as he moves back.
- Discuss the differences and how it is different being a female versus his being male and the conflicts around remaining close.
- Are both of you aware of this push-pull dynamic?
- Remember that dad or father figure needs to be front and center as a boy matures.
- Do not separate but integrate. This is extremely important. More important than anything else, a boy needs to internalize his relationship to his mother
What you give your son is carried with him his entire life.