What is unique about mother/son relationships is the general expected high regard they hold for each other. Typical issues like the “Mommy’s Boy” , the overprotective mom or interfering mother and even the mom that replaces existing or potential spouses are well known publicly. We see sitcoms and comedy using these classic scenarios as materials for entertainment. What however is really behind them.
Mothering a child is a full time job and instinct takes on a path of protecting the offspring and equipping the young ones with necessary life skills. On a side note – research shows that it does not seem to matter if it is a biological mother or an adoptive mom. Once mother bonds with the child, boys and girls, these instincts grow stronger and ideally takes on new forms as the child goes through various developmental stages. For instance, a mother of a 1 month old a baby will primarily focus on feeding the child and keeping it clean, warm and protected. A mother of a four year old will spend an overwhelming time equipping her offspring in socially acceptable behaviour. And a mother of a 11 year old will be focused not only on social skills but also on how to equip her offspring with ways to cope in a world of school demands and healthy relationships.
I always say that parenthood is a never ending goodbye. Goodbye to pregnancy, goodbye to toothless smile, goodbye to dependency on me as mom. Goodbye, Goodbye goodbye. However what many parents seem to overlook is that with each goodbye comes an amazing “Hello,.. oh Wow.. look at that new development.” Hello to walking , hello to jumping, hello to running up to another adult, hello opinion, hello friends, hello pro-activeness. Hello Hello Hello! I challenge you as a mother to refocus on the hellos instead of mourning too much the goodbyes. Focus on expecting something new every day and join your son in discovering and unveiling His true self. No matter what age he is.
Bearing all this in mind as mothers (and fathers) we are dealt a hard blow because the ultimately the goal of good parenting is to set your young one free and to allow them to effectively create their own world. Somehow my own mother-heart feels unbelievable pain and sadness to think that all my efforts as a mom ideally will ultimately lead to my boys going off into the big wide world, without me. As a family-therapist however I want to encourage you to rejoice at the idea that all your efforts will (hopefully) result in growing responsible individuals who create their own “kingdoms” and rule in their world as powerful, responsible and caring men. Take solace in the fact that the things you have focused on as their grew up in some way form a substructure for their individuality and success.
Here are some Common myths to watch out for. See if any of them apply to you:
My child is a reflection of my personality and my ability to parent well.
As modern moms we over-identify with our son’s behaviours, failures and successes. We feel that if his shirt is not ironed it will reflect badly on us as moms. We are for some reason not a fit mother if he forgets his lunch. This is absolutely untrue, when your teenage son wears unironed clothes it means one of two things, either he does not worry much about external things or he is making a statement on purpose. Either way your job as a mom is simply to explain the possible social implications and allow him to make an informed choice. It says nothing about you. Similarly, what you wear and how you dress says things about you and nothing about your children. If your sons forgets his lunch it simply means he forgot his lunch and he will somehow make a plan at school/college/work. It says nothing about your parenting.
It is up to me, his mom, to make sure he is OK.
This is an absolute truth in the early stages of your son’s life. However as his ability to make choices grows your responsibility for his decisions shrinks. If he made an age appropriate choice it is of utmost importance for mom to let him live out the consequences of his choice. So if he decided to wear his pajamas to preschool after you explained the possible consequences …he will survive the outcome of his action. Our Job as mothers is not to hinder or change the choices they make but rather encourage the understanding of the possible outcome of these choices. Trust in His ability to survive, learn and grow.
I know him best.
You KNEW him best MAYBE until he stared interacting with others. As soon as there are outside influences, He is the one who knows himself the best. We can of course point out blind-spots so he can grow in his self-awareness. But it is up to him to discover who he is and what kind of man he wants to become. There are too many influences in your child’s life to assume that you know him the best. Look at your son everyday and discover who he is today. How is is navigating life TODAY and allow yourself to discover as this young man emerges more and more.
He cannot do this on his own, he needs me.
As heart breaking as it is he does not NEED you. He needs respect and understanding and permission to be the best man possible. We as mothers simply provide a SUB-structure of one possible way to engage with the world. As he grows up he will make up his mind what he will take form your teachings and what he will reject in order to build his “kingdom”, his world.
Being a good mom means I am in his inner circle.
I would like to rephrase that a good mom is there to help with the recovery when things have gone wrong and to be there to celebrate achievements when things go well. A good mom is one who is able to give opinions without guilt, shame or expectations. Being in the inner circle with his friends, girlfriends and ultimately his life partner does not sound like a good idea for both you and him. You have your kingdom and he needs to leave your kingdom to create his own inner circle. My wish for you as his mom is for you to cultivate your own inner circle (even while your boy is little) This inner circle may includes a spouse, one or two really close female friends and loads of acquaintances and interests to make life interesting for you.
These are just some of the myths moms deal with on a daily basis. Often your friends and family members will point out to you that your relationship with your son/mom is not ideal. Listen to them and investigate if any of these myths might be what is causing you stress and struggle.
What are your myths that bind you to your son/mom? What do you struggle with when raising your boy? And how are you managing your relationship with your adult son/mom?
Feel Free to comment on what your mother/son dynamics are and if you have any questions I am happy to discuss them with you.
For a bit mor insight click on the link to listen to me chatting to SJ King on Cape Talk about Mother/Son Dynamics