From Strong Mothers, Strong Sons
Many mothers who have been estranged from their sons worry that they can never repair their relationships. The truth is, when it comes to mending a mother-son relationship, it is never too late. Every man wants more from his mother. He either wants more great memories or he wants to heal past hurts because there is only one person who can occupy that particular space in his heart. (A stepmother, aunt, or grandmother can come occupy this place if she bonded with the boy early in his childhood when his biological mother was absent.) The dynamics of the mother-son love are intense precisely because the love is need based. While the intensity may shift over the years, the significance and impact of a mother’s love never change. Even if she doesn’t remain his primary female relationship, a boy always needs to know that he is loved and accepted by his mother, just as he needs his father’s approval and support. When a child suspects that a mother’s love has shifted or lessened, even at an older, adult age, the ground beneath him feels less solid.
Many single mothers who struggle to try to be both mother and father to their sons become discouraged because their emotional energy runs dry. But the truth is, no one can be both Mom and Dad. A woman can only be Mom, and believe me, this is good enough. So many single mothers exhaust themselves with worry and trying to be something that they can’t be. Yes, a boy needs male influence, so rather than attempting to be a substitute yourself, recruit a good man or two to help you. Ask an uncle or grandfather, a pastor, or a coach to spend a little time with your son. Other men can have a profound influence on sons, so it is important to admit that you can’t do it all, and to learn to ask for help.
One friend of mine, Claire, lost her husband to pancreatic cancer when their three children were five, ten, and twelve. She was despondent and felt overwhelmed by the task of raising three young children on her own. For the first few years, she tried to be both mother and father to her kids. She got a job outside the home, continued to be room mother to her middle son’s class, drove them to sports games, and made lovely dinners every night. As her oldest, Sean, approached puberty, she talked with him about life changes in a way she thought her husband would have.
After two years Claire became exhausted. Sean began acting out. His grades dropped and he began drinking. When she confronted him about what was going on, he refused to talk to her. She believed that his changed behavior was due to his grief over the loss of her husband but she didn’t know what to do. Then Claire had an idea. She went to the youth pastor of her church and told him what was going on at home. The two became friends and she asked the pastor if he had any chores that he needed done at his home. He did and agreed to ask her son to help him around the yard. Over the next few months, the pastor and her son developed a friendship, and Claire got to know the pastor’s wife well.