Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Boy and Me...

Driving home from spending Easter with my family, I was jogged out of a doze by an interview on NPR... "There are plenty of pop culture references to the dangers of a close mother-son relationship. From the myth of Oedipus to the movie Psycho, narrative after narrative harps on the idea that mothers can damage their sons, make them weak, awkward and dependent."

Oh, brother, I thought. I so do NOT want to hear this... it's probably some diatribe about how loving moms cripple their boys, make them targets for bullies, make them weak.  I've heard it all before.

But, reaching for the dial to flip stations, I was caught by the very next words:  "But for millions of men, the opposite has turned out to be true, author Kate Lombardi tells NPR's Laura Sullivan. Lombardi — a mother herself — is the author of the new book, The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger."


I cranked the volume.

I listened, and my heart did one of those "happy-Mommy-dances" it does when I find out that something I was afraid I was doing wrong... is actually something I'm doing RIGHT.

It's hard being the mother of a young son.  There are picture books aplenty about Moms and daughters sharing magical playtime, sons and dads and grandpas bonding in masculine ways, even "Daddy's little girls" books focusing on that very special relationship.  But moms and their boys?  Few and far between... one that I did buy, despite my misgivings, was I'll Be Your Hero - a Christian picture book, the boy equivalent of its companion, I'll Be Your Princess.  Since I loved the first - a charming look at a little girl imagining herself as her daddy's princess, and also the princess of God's kindgom - I had high hopes.  Unfortunately, unlike in the Daddy-daughter version, the mother was very much a non-player in the text; always in the background, watching her son go off adventuring with Dad, never really DOING much.  Sigh.

There are plenty of Mommy-and-Me clubs for girls... even past the multi-gendered playgroups of toddler years.  There are Daddy-and-Me activities galore for both boys and girls.  But moms and their boys?  Not so much.  No Mom-and-Son book clubs... though I did find a Guys Read club targeted at boys, I can't lead it.  I'm not a guy.  Nothing out there but the expected role - sit on the sidelines and cheer or get violent with the overly-competitive youth sports parental units.  I'm not thrilled with that... I've seen the behavior, seen the cliquishness, and I want no part in it.

I've been left to wonder... AM I somehow doing what I ought not to do?  Is spending time DOING things with my boy - going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (his idea, after reading a picture book about it), going to zoos, visiting museums - not what I ought to be doing?  Is sharing my interests - comic books, animals, reading and creating stories, imaginative play - the wrong thing?  Should I be pushing him to play football, though I've no interest in it and he hasn't asked to play?  My sister thinks so.  Should I be arranging playdates to fill up the weekends?  Other moms do.  My mom feels that I need to learn to just relax with my boy -  sit on the beach, watch him play, take a book to the playground while he romps.  But I don't enjoy doing that... I like DOING things.  Together things.  Things that let us talk, and joke, and learn.

This weekend, Daniel and I spent a whole afternoon building a Lego diorama.  I made a T-Rex at his request, Daniel assisting with certain parts; he made a temple and created the backstory: there were three jewels, the Jewel of Ocean, the Jewel of Sky, and the Jewel of Fire, all with different powers.  The dinosaur guarded the treasure, which was in a shrine Daniel designed.  He was VERY proud, particularly of the corpse of the minifigure sprawled across the temple entrance.

"Few have survived," he intoned, as sinister as a six year old can be.  We were both thrilled - it was the first time he'd had an interest in building something that didn't have specific instructions.  I told  him that maybe we'd try to start a "Mommy and Me" Lego club for moms and their sons.  He's ready to start recruiting TOMORROW.

So I listened to the interview, which I've linked to below, and felt my heart swell to bursting.  I'm doing it RIGHT.  I'm not hurting my son by loving on him, keeping our lines of communication open, by sharing experiences we both find exciting and enjoyable.  I'm not a mom who wants to watch her young knight ride off in search of the dragon - I want to be out there with him!  And - go figure.  Science says that it's okay.  PHEW.

So I'm ordering the book tonight... can't wait to read it.  If any of you are moms of boys, I'd say you need to read it, too.  There are precious few books out there for women like us... we have to grab the good ones while we can.

The NPR Interview:  Ignore 'The Mama's Boy Myth': Keep Your Boys Close


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