During the final scene of the movie Dead Man Walking, a death row inmate, bound at the wrists and feet, is led into a chamber where he will be put to death. Sister Helen, his companion and confidant, asks if she can accompany him into the room. His guards agree to let her walk with him. At the end of the hallway, before he enters the chamber, Sister Helen asks if she can touch him. His guards say yes. Sister Helen turns to him and says, “When you feel the pain and death closing in around you look up at me. I will be the face of love for you.”
Because women are more verbal, they love differently from men. The feeling, the intensity, and the availability may be the same, but the expression of love flows differently from women than from men. Because women talk more, they verbally communicate love more easily. For mothers and sons, the love-giving process starts in infancy. Mothers oogle at their baby boys, make up pet names for them, and tell their sons they love them. Talking to, holding, bathing, and touching their babies help mothers communicate to their sons that they want to be the supreme love-giver. He can depend on her to always buoy him when he is sinking.
A mother may disapprove of her son’s behavior, girlfriend, sports, or music, but she will always love him.
A healthy internalization of a mother’s love is critical to her son because his experience of her love sets a template for how he will regard love with any woman after her. If he has a positive experience with his mother, he will be more trusting of his sister’s, girlfriend’s, or female teacher’s affections. If, on the other hand, he feels an instability or lack of trustworthiness in his mother’s love, these will temper the way he views other women’s love—whether it is romantic or platonic.
Mothers love to touch. This is wonderful because infants, young, and older boys need physical touch. A mother’s embrace tells her son that he is loved: she sees him, she likes what she sees, and she approves. He is validated by her love. Unfortunately, many mothers abstain from hugging their sons as much as they would like because they feel that part of becoming masculine is needing less touch, and that manliness means fewer hugs. This is certainly not true. A father can afford to be stand-offish when it comes to touch, and may refrain from touching
Mothers love to talk to their sons, but they shouldn’t always expect much of a response. Women are comfortable discussing their intimate feelings; boys and men are not, and sometimes cannot. Their own feelings are a bottled up mystery even to themselves. But teenage boys in particular still want to know that their mother is interested in their feelings, even if they cannot articulate them. And while this can be comforting and necessary, at times it can drive boys crazy. Mothers must be sensitive towards their son’s responses. For instance, since women tend to discuss their intimate thoughts and feelings with one another, mothers naturally transfer this behavior to relationships with their sons. If something is wrong, a mother asks what it is. Young boys usually don’t know. And if they do, sometimes they will divulge what it is; sometimes they won’t.
As boys grow into the teen years many don’t want to discuss their feelings, at least with their mothers. But the catch is that most still want to know that their mother is interested in their feelings. This can become something of a bad habit in adolescent boys: a game young men subconsciously play with their mothers. They want their mother to see that they are upset, but they don’t want to divulge what is going on. They do this because knowing that their mother really does care is a consoling.