The 21st century family structure is more complex and diverse than anyone could have ever imagined. The standard image of mom, dad and 2.25 kids is fleeting and nearly non-existent. Instead, the more common image is that of 2.25 parents for every family. Step-parents, live-in “friends” of single parents, grandparents serving as parents, foster parents, “uncle daddy”, “auntie momma” and 17-year old high school students who live on their own all contribute to the varied visualization that we know today as “The Family.”
Earlier Young World columns have made mention of the value of the family. The most recent articles particularly focused on dad’s role in child development; but what about the scenarios where dad is invisible, unavailable or absolutely unworthy? Whether he is in the house or out of the picture, an absentee father necessitates a super-strong mother. Of great concern in this picture is the little boy who must now learn how to be a man from his mother. Many will say that “A woman can’t teach a boy to be a man”, and I agree.
That however, is a very different statement from “a woman can’t raise a boy to be a man”. I believe the latter to be absolutely false. As a matter of fact, I personally contradict that statement.
I am the product of a single-parent household. My brother, sister and I were raised by my mother who worked rotating shifts in a manufacturing environment to keep us fed, warm and clothed. I dare not say that our life was easy or that we were well-off. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite was true. We lived as minimally as possible, but there was always love. In all honesty, it is in retrospect (looking back at my youth) that I realize how little we actually had. I guess I was blessed in that I was poor and didn’t really know it.
I thank my mother for that. My father’s absence did not mean that there was a lack of discipline. My mother didn’t go out of her way to give us material things out of guilt that dad was not in the house. But there again, this was over 30 years ago. Today’s single mothers work hard to shower kids with material things; designer clothes, $120 sneakers, video games, expensive cell phones and music devices.
My question is, “Why?” Mom, what is it you hope to teach your son by giving him all that he asks for, despite the sacrifice you have to make when he is willing to sacrifice nothing? Son, do you, for a moment, think about what your mother endures to provide for you?
It is every mother’s dream to raise a son who achieves great things and brings honor to his family name. By the same token, it is every son’s dream to make his mother burst with pride at the accomplishments of her baby boy. One quick glance can easily confirm this. Mothers scrutinize and interrogate young ladies before giving the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” about any type of relationship with their sons; we won’t even get into the exercises necessary to be considered as a daughter-in-law. Sideline cameras and post-game interviews record millions of sound-bytes from men and boys who give “shout outs” to momma during the big game or after a good competition.
Mothers wield an unexplainable captivity over their little boys, similar to the unexplainable relationship between the moon and the ocean. They are connected by unseen ties. Over time, those ties become stronger or weaker based on the severity of the pull in opposite directions. Moms may develop stronger relationships with careers, deeper bonds with new husbands, become more emotionally attached to friends or other children. Sons may be drawn into sports, new social circles, teen scenes (where parents aren’t invited) or relationships. Any one of these pulls on either end can upset the lunar/emotional balance between mother and son. Family chaos is certain when any number of these distractions occur simultaneously.
I acknowledge all that mothers (single, married or other) do in the development of dependent little boys into strong confident men. And, to the “SuperMom” trying to be both father and mother, I invite you to take off your cape. Your motherly instincts will let you know when and who to turn to for help in raising your son. It is okay to rule your house with an iron fist, but only IF you also rule with a heart as big as Texas. If you desire to raise your young prince to be a great king, you must first be the Queen of your home – not just by title, but by the respect your very presence commands. Live with honor, work with pride, love with all of your heart. Show your son what each of these character traits mean. Explain it so that it is abundantly clear. And if at any time he forgets what they mean, he needs only to look at the way you live your life as a reminder.
To the young man reading this article hoping that one day dad is going to come back home, I urge you not to look through your mom while you’re looking at the front door. There most certainly are things that your mother can help you through if you only trust her. And, as much as he pretends to know, dad will never be able to help you understand how women think. The bible tells children to “Honor thy mother and father that your days may be long upon the earth”. The “long days” involves more than physical days of life, but also the legacy you leave behind. The court jester is only worthy of discussion while he is entertaining. However, the young prince who becomes a great King leaves much to be spoken of. Son, hear your mothers words, know her expectations for you and work to never disappoint her.
Langston Hughes’ words in the poem “Mother To Son” always seem to leap off the page at me because it feels like he was writing about me years before my birth. I need only to look within myself and think back from whence I have come to realize that I owe my mother a HUGE debt of gratitude and never-ending hugs and kisses. I thank her daily in my prayers, but probably not often enough with my mouth. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll call her now to tell her I that I love her.
Be Young! Have Fun!