My ten-year-old son and I are very close. I suppose you could say he’s a mama’s boy in that he clearly loves me, cares about my opinion, wants to hang out with me and adores my cuddles. When I go out of town, he actually gets more upset about it than my six-year-old daughter. And yet, he’s not attached to me in any way that feels inappropriate.
There is certainly a stigma around the concept of the mama’s boy, from the kid who is so focused on his mom that he is supposedly unable to display the tough, macho side expected of boys, to the man who is so attached to and controlled by his mother that he commits heinous crimes (think: Psycho).
There are countless articles in women’s magazines about what to do if you’re dating a guy who talks more to his mother than to you and can’t ever stop talking about her or seeking her opinion. And of course it’s all mom’s responsibility if a man displays an unwillingness to grow up, known as Peter Pan syndrome, or seems attracted to or wants to possess his mother and replace his father, known as an Oedipus complex. Not surprising, given that most everything these days is considered mom’s fault.
Author Kate Lombardi thinks the mama’s boy stigma stinks, and that strong relationships between mothers and sons are healthy, and even integral to boys’ future success. She has just published a new book entitled The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger. She recently explained about how difficult it can be for mothers to navigate parenting boys in a Wall Street Journal essay:
Many mothers are confused and anxious when it comes to raising boys. Should they defer to their husband when he insists that she stop kissing their first-grade son at school drop-off? If she cuddles her 10-year-old boy when he is hurt, will she turn him into a wimp? If she keeps him too close, will she make him gay? If her teenage boy is crying in his room, should she go in and comfort him, or will this embarrass and shame him?
These are great points. Why is it that we can be close to our girls but not to our boys? Is it really doing them harm? Lombardi says no way. In an opinion piece at Time, she argues that research shows closeness between mothers and sons can help boys:
1) develop emotional intelligence and be better able to articulate their feelings
2) have stronger self-control
3) suffer less anxiety and depression
4) do better in school
I believe this wholeheartedly. I’m not turning my son into a wimp by being very close to him. He’s a sensitive and intuitive person, but that doesn’t make him a “sissy,” whatever that means. He’s also a boy’s boy and loves doing masculine things. I cuddle my son when he asks. I kiss him, though he definitely prefers the forehead now. I also let him shoot his BB gun or bow and arrow when he wants (safely), even though I’m opposed to it, because he loves it and his dad says that’s important, too. I find him very balanced between the softer and harder sides of femininity and masculinity, and I think balance is good.
Perhaps from now on, if anyone tells me I’m raising a mama’s boy, I’ll just say thank you.
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