Boys learn their earliest lessons about love and trust from their mothers. According to William Pollack, Ph.D., "Far from making boys weaker, the love of a mother can and does actually make boys stronger, emotionally and psychologically. Far from making boys dependent, the base of safety a loving mother can create—a connection that her son can rely on all his life—provides a boy with the courage to explore the outside world. But most important, far from making a boy act in 'girl-like' ways, a loving mother actually plays an integral role in helping a boy develop his masculinity."
The Importance of Loving Refuge
In the early years of a little boy's life, he is torn between two choices: He longs to explore, climb, jump, and run, and he needs to stay close to the adults who allow him to feel secure. In fact, when boys begin to walk and exercise some autonomy, their activity mirrors this dual need. They wander away from Mom (into the backyard, across the playground, or to the neighbor's house) and then return for a quick conversation or a hug, just to be sure she's there.
Some mothers, absorbing cultural messages about "real masculinity," believe that they should push their sons away emotionally, often as early as the age of two or three. Your son needs connection with you all the way through adolescence. Be sensitive about invading privacy, but separating yourself from your son will do him more harm than good.
Your son will learn self-respect and confidence when you provide a loving and secure home base for him. When you can create a sense of belonging and significance for your boy, teach him life and character skills, and practice kind, firm discipline, he learns to trust, to face challenges, and to move freely into his world. When you take time to listen to him and to focus on solutions to the problems he faces, you teach him emotional awareness and good judgment. A strong and loving relationship with a good mother can help a boy learn the skills of intimacy, support him in developing respect for other women, and prepare him for a satisfying relationship someday.
Knowing When to Let Go
Even the wisest mother can find it hard to let go in appropriate ways when her son begins to exercise his independence. Your son's desire to do things for himself, from dressing himself to reading his own bedtime story to dating, can feel like a personal rejection. One of the paradoxes of parenting is that if you do your job as a mother well, your son will eventually leave you.
As your son grows, you will learn to find the balance between offering support and stepping back to let him learn from his own experiences-and his own mistakes. Clinging too tightly can create unnecessary power struggles, especially during adolescence (a rather bumpy period for even the closest mothers and sons). Teach skills and listen well and often; then have faith in your son and let go.