Monday, February 9, 2009

mothers and sons. let's discuss.

A friend pointed this out recently. Our culture doesn't value the relationship between the Mother and Son. Maybe, that sounds too general, but you'll see what I'm getting at...

There's Father-Daughter banquets. And being a "Daddy's girl" is a good thing.

There's the Father-Son bonding that's so important. Roughing it. Wrestling. Adventure. There are even retreats for Fathers and Sons.

There's the Mother-Daughter relationship that is just as beloved as the Father/Son. Bonding over shopping (supposedly), and cooking (perhaps) and staying attached for life ("because the Bible says, 'therefore a man shall leave his mother and father,' but not the woman"'ve heard that, perhaps?)

But, what about Mothers and Sons? Here's my personal experience:

"Mama's Boy" doesn't generally have a positive connotation, I don't think.

And I remember when I was pregnant with my first son. I recall shedding a few tears over that book Love You Forever the first time I read it. But, it was quickly spoiled by someone (who didn't have a son) saying something like, "I think it's creepy" or "That Mom needs to cut the cord."

I think sometimes as a Mother to sons, I have felt defensive about our connection, but didn't know why.

I've been afraid that I'd come off as creepy if I cherished their affections for me, too much.

I have mourned that it's not as special as the other parent-child relationships, without really wrapping my head around why I'd even feel that way. Just kinda felt marginalized or something.

And, I've already hoped and prayed for daughters-in-law who love me and accept me (and that I'll be a good mother-in-law, of course!!), because I know that if not, I have a limited time with my sons. And, that's depressing.

I don't have a resolution here about how I will or should think about my relationship with my sons. Just bringing it up for discussion. I think you all will help round out my understanding.


Greta said...

Great topic. I have to admit I was disappointed when you said you didn't have a resolution.
Love You Forever makes me cry...every time.

If you figure this out, please let me know. I do think that healthy boundaries and a strong father figure are integral in whatever the answer may be.

P.S. Good luck with the tooth hunt. ;)

Mike Tong said...

In your pondering, I think that you have hit the nail on the head. You already have a resolution in the spirit of what you wrote. Great post.

Karla Anne said...

Excellent thoughts, Jenna!

If I am the most dominant female role model in my sons' lives, it stands to reason that they may possibly look for someone like me to marry...someday.

And, with an 11 year old who is already noticing girls, boy, does that keep me accountable!

Jenna said...

thanks, mike.

boundaries. that's another discussion altogether, i think. b/c mainly i'm talking about healthy relationships (y'know, sans guilt & manipulation)

and, it's agreed that strong father figures are crucial. despite american media showing men to be helpless meat-heads who could never survive without women, i think the christian community appropriately values fathers.

but do they value sons? boys?

what happened to the pride that a family felt in having a brood of sons? to be honest, i don't see it. i almost don't want to talk about it, because i'm afraid it could hurt someone. but it was a sensitive thing having only boys for five years. and i'm still touchy about it.

maybe b/c i heard a lot of this:
-they'll keep you busy!
-they sure are active!
-are slower to potty train.
-aren't as verbal.
-develop socially at a slower rate

and so forth. Not exactly encouraging comments.

I have more thoughts, but I have other stuff to do.

I'm quite convinced that Avery will marry someone who is nothing like me. And Miles will marry someone who is very much like me. Time will tell...

Martha said...


This was a very very interesting and helpful blog post for me. BTW, we met at a softball game this past summer, and our oldest children are in sunday school together :)

I had honestly never thought of it in this way. I have always thought that the "mother son" relationship was the most cherished. In observing my own family, my husband's and many of my friends while growing up, I've always felt that mothers had a special adoration for their sons and seemed a little harder on their daughters. They also seemed to relish taking care of their sons, and maybe expected a little more independence from their daughters. I've asked people around me, "Why are sons so extra-special to their mothers? Do you think I'll become like that some day? Or that my daughters will feel like I favor their brother?" Having lived overseas, this "mothers favoring their sons" phenomenon is to the absolute extreme.... so much so that it doesn't necessarily apply here.

It was really helpful for me to hear your thoughts. You're right about father/daughter events and mother/daughter events in the church, and about the negative connotation in America of a "mamma's boy". I'm just pondering...Do you think the church and our culture are overcompensating for a cultural history of favoring male offspring? And maybe, in trying to affirm daughters, that the pendulum has swung too far?


Jenna said...


Thanks for your comments. And, I totally remember you.

First of all, I'll be upfront in admitting that I don't have a thesis here. This post was born of my general experience and a friends' thoughtful articulation.

My response to your ending question is "I don't know". I really don't. I'm kind of wondering the same thing.

Is this leftover garbage from the likes of Gloria Steinem and the sixties? very likely.

I took a "gender and communication" class in college, which was pretty much horrible, because retrospectively it was so biased. I remember discussing the imbalance in how a girl could ride a blue hand-me-down boys' bike and that was socially acceptable. But, a boy couldn't ride a pink hand-me-down girls' bike. In our American culture (I have to stay in my ltd. realm of understanding), the range appears wider for girls in terms of the colors she can wear, the ways she can play, etc...

Where am I going with this???

Oh well. Somebody else jump in.

Allison Dillard said...

We are of the same mind---you know how I feel. It is a double standard. I really love my boys.

Love you! Al

Chelsea Bass said...

I married a man who is the oldest of three sons. He has a pretty close relationship with his mother. They work close to eachother and have lunch once a week.

I think the most important thing about their relationship is that he learned how to love, cherish, and respect women.

I know people always say that you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother, and it really is true.

I know that "boundaries" are usually referenced with the mother/son relationship, but I've seen a lot of marriages where mother/daughter, father/daughter, or father/son have all needed MORE boundaries.

I am often guilty of saying too many things to my mother.

Amy said...

here via 22 Words, and fascinated as the mother of a son--my firstborn is 18 months today. no wisdom, just listening and now thinking. I think this will be the topic of discussion at dinner tonight--I could have written the first three paragraphs of the above poster's comment, except that my husband is the middle son :) thanks for starting a conversation.

Sara Huber said...

Here via Molly Piper's blog, and can't believe the coincidence that I came across this post! This topic has been on my mind a ton over the past week and I feel like many of my friends cannot relate to some of the thoughts I'm having about this (almost all of them have at least one girl). I am pregnant with my third boy and thought I was just thrilled about this until listening to a Bebo Norman song the other day about seeing in the people around us a "harvest" of our efforts, "all that we have sown." Out of the blue I started crying and realized there are some things that I want to be able to pass on as a mom to my children, but these things can really only be passed on to daughters...and the fact that I may never have the chance to do that has been sadder to me than I would have ever expected.

I am so thankful to have a godly husband who can and should do much of the mentoring for our boys to grow them into strong men of character. In Dr. Dobson's "Bringing Up Boys" he is so clear about the importance of women letting go of their sons and allowing them to develop a healthy "boy" bond to their dad at a young age. I couldn't agree more, but it makes me feel that my role is diminished to feeding, diapering, taking care of basic needs and keeping the house going while my husband gets to be the spiritual mentor, guide, teacher for the boys. I know I'm exaggerating this a little and realize that there would be a huge void in my sons' lives without me, but still...these are the things on my mind lately.

If there are any moms of preteens or teens or older sons out there, I would love to hear their thoughts on the role of a mother during these years.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion. I feel less "alone" in my thoughts than I did last week. :)

Melissa said...

Great question, Jenna. I never thought of it like that. Mainly because of growing up in the rural, we-are- all-"Christians," south, I feel like they do take great pride when a boy is born into the family--unto us a potential "preacher boy" is born.

When we told people (even some relatives) that we were having a girl, there were some disappointed congratulations. People just think that girls cannot do as much for the Kingdom as a boy can. It is really absurd--I loathed that mentality.

But on the other hand, I do understand what you are saying. Hardly ever is "mama's boy" meant as a compliment. and in light of your post, it does encourage me to be a better daughter-in-law.

Anonymous said...


Interesting subject. Really.

I wish I had something cogent to say without feeling like I am at my own counseling session, unloading on someone.

Why not buck the culture and ask Avery to take you on "mother-son" date? It will be fun and he can practice his gentleman skills. And I bet he would totally do it since he will get you a diaper on the first holler.

Jenna said...

okay, people. IF YOU HAVE JUST READ B-ROB's comment about a diaper, go to his Season-a post on his blog. In the comments I told a story about Avery getting a diaper FOR HIS SISTER.

When I read his comment, it sounded (to me) like I wear diapers and we have a freakishly close relationship.

But, maybe I'm overly sensitive about my mother-son relationship???

Please, Ben, don't take offense to my defensiveness.

Anyway, Ben (aka B-ROB), please, share. This counseling session won't cost you a thing!

Jenna said...


I totally understand. Here are my incredibly scattered thoughts:

I love seeing a family with only sons. Some words that come to mind: strong, winsome, intimidating (i don't know why?? but, i wanna toss that around my noggin, b/c it's true, i really think that.), mysterious, stunning.

I think it is a lie that we can't be fulfilled mothers if we don't have a daughter. I think the same for fathers who never have a son.

That said, it sure can feel the opposite.

I want all my friends to have daughters because they *want* them, not because I think they *need* them.

I am teaching my sons to sew, cook, wash dishes, do laundry, and so on.

and now for the wishy-washy emotions...

I always wanted a daughter.

I didn't want anyone to pity me for not having one.

I didn't like people to say, "you're just such a good 'boy mom'." I felt locked in and unfeminine. (now I don't mind)

I felt hurt when someone would have two boys and then stop having biological children because they were afraid of having another boy. (I'm not saying I was rational!! I'm not trying to offend anyone. These are feelings, not standards.)

great phrase.
"disappointed congratulations".

That applies to a few different situations in my life. And it makes me think of how often mothers of large families receive disappointed congratulations??? They should get a free pass to sucker punch "pro-life" people who think you should limit your family to three. (do i sound narrow-minded enough?)

I had no idea I had so much to say on this subject, though I've been thinking about it for almost nine years.

MyAwesomeOliveShoots said...

I am a mom of three sons and I believe the Lord gave me a great husband and awesome guys to heal some wounds from my past. Feel free to check out my blog and see what life is like for me as a mama of three boys. I remember when I found out I was having my third boy, it took some adjustment but then I realized he was going to be just as special. My friend told me about your blog, glad I stopped blog is, btw

Kathy said...

Jenna, loved your thoughts. As my eldest boy (no longer a boy, but truly a young man) will be leaving for college in the fall, there is actually a tender closeness forming even stronger. It doesn't mean I'm not letting him go or grow up, but we are entering a new sweet phase as adults. It is fun teaching them to "be dudes." And to teach them not to scare away my daughter-in-laws.

I love boys! I am so very glad God gave me 5. I am grateful for my wonderful daughter too, but life would be very different with 5 girls and 1 boy.

rod said...

I turned 45 today. A couple years ago, on this day, my Mom gave me that book. There's never been a moment in my 45 years when Mom and I didn't have an intensely special relationship. I think there is a part of every man that only his mother is allowed to know about. Perhaps she never realizes this about her husband, but she knows her son in a way that his wife will only understand about her son.

Jenna said...


Thank you for commenting! I hoped for another man's perspective!!!

(b-rob, you still need to put in on this!)

I'm just glimpsing into this now with my sons.

Thanks so much for validating strong relationships between a mother and son. I keep thinking, "God never told us that mothers were less important to their sons, right??"

I'd love to hear your thoughts about how mothers and sons cultivate "intensely special" relationships. (i'll check out your blog, too and see if you've written about this)

I was hoping to get your input, especially knowing you are in new territory as you and Brian are both adults. Thanks!

I miss sitting behind you and your boys and Kelsey in church! :(

i miss the giggling...

katie said...

Hi, this is Katie O'Neal from church. I obviously don't know much about this, but I just felt like I needed to say that I think that the movie "North and South" (the one based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell) portrays how close a son is to his mother, and how much she means to him, and vice versa. It's a great flick! Kind of long but very worth it. My sister is pregnant with her first child and it is a boy. We are all very excited! Her husband is the oldest of three boys, and his mother is the only girl in her family, and I think his dad has several brothers and only one sister, so my sister is a little worried that she'll never have a girl since the genes have thus far produced more boys (I don't know if that's genetic or not, but she's a tiny bit concerned anyway.) I think I'll tell her to read this discussion. =D

No Fluff Required said...

Hmmm, this is interesting. I have had all your same thoughts. I like the real possibility of being the main influence my sons will ever have in changing the world. I get to brain wash them and send them out to do damage in the world. I guess it has been my goal all along to send them out and not hold on to them...hope that works in the end to be pleasantly surprising if they end up calling me once in a while...if not, I'll have to win their wives over with unconditional love. We'll see how that goes. Thanks for your post.

Anonymous said...

Chris could see the "magic" between Nathan and I from Day 1. He said there was something special between us that wasn't present between me and the girls. Now, Nathan is almost 3. He is definitely harder on me than Chris(pushes buttons); not sure if I'm too soft or that Chris is too firm.

Having read this post and comments, I will be analyzing my (difficult) relationship with my mother-in-law. And also how Chris interacts with both me and his mom in similar ways... Interesting.

Thanks for the free counseling.
Love ya,

Anonymous said...

3 years ago my daughter in law married my son and was always thanking me for raising such a great communicator, a boy that grew up to be a man who cherishes and honors his wife. My son would always say "mom I am the man I am because of all you have done, because of our relationship." Now after 3 years of marriage my daughter in law is very passive/agressive with me. She is very disrespectful of me in a condescending manner she is rude in front of others. In my home she has openly mocked me, after I spent months updating my home (for myself) & making it cozy for their long distance visit with my infant grandson. She appears to be fearful of my relationship with my son which is almost non-existent. He puts her first according to God's word. I admire that in him. Yet, that is not enough for her, what complicates things is now I have a beautiful, perfect, grandson. Perhaps she looks fervently for things to criticize me because she didn't have a mom growing up . she resents me, but I have only ever loved her and spoke well of her. Up until now that is. Today, perhaps just for today I resent her, I dislike her anal, controlling nature. My boys were my life and that was out of balance, but they have grown into young men who love and live for God. As I let go of them I prayed for their wives & now my oldest is married but to a woman who disrespects me, yet I live for God. So does she, ....I'm sad.

CJ said...

This is probably what all of us mothers of sons ultimately fear... but perhaps we can see all the love we give these boys as planting love for their own kids... making great dads, no matter what the relationship with our daughters in law.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the close relationship betwen Jesus and his mother, Mary. Their relationship is given a lot of attention by Catholics from all over the world. The U.S.A. though, is predominantly Protestants.

Anyway. A close mother-son relationship is a very common thing that most people rarely pay much attention to it. It's when something went wrong or 'wrong' that people started to pay close attention toward it.

Lynn S. said...

Today I was browsing around for ways to tell my son-in-law how amazing he is and that he truly has my unconditional love when I came across this old post. I also have a son of my own that coincedentally just came home from Afghanistan. I'm curious as to whether or not, in the last three years, you've gained any insights or wise epiphanies?? I would like to share my own thoughts for what they're worth - now, 3 years later.
My amazing husband of 31 years is an excellent father but because he was in the military and in and out of the country for much of our childrens' young lives, I was, in many ways a single parent. That bond you mentioned years ago is strong in our family, due in great part to the example my husband set for our children with how he treats me and how he treated his parents and particularly, his mom. (An aside - I didn't ALWAYS love her the way I should have, but as I matured and came into myself, I realized how precious she really was and what a phenomenal job she had done in raising the man I love.)
Unconditional love is the foundation for my relationships with everyone in my family. We did our best to insure our children knew that NO MATTER WHAT, we would love them - we might not approve, they would still have to suffer the consequences of their actions, but our LOVE for them would NEVER change. There were times when I thought our son was testing this :-) but through these trials, we showed him that bond could not be broken. I believe a child learns the love of God, the unconditional, unwaivering love of our Almighty God from his or her mom first. It's up to us to form strong bonds with our daughters AND our sons so that they know that type of love exists and that that is the type of everlasting love they should seek in their lives. My son never seemed to care about the "mama's boy" stereotypes - if it did, it did not curtail his public expressions of love and affection for my husband and me. To this day, my daughter, and both my son and son-law (both "manly" military men) are very free with their public expressions of love and affection. I wish all your readers the same love and affection.