Little boys. There are times when I feel like they really are a completely different species.
They move like they are perpetually set on fast-forward mode. They get hurt but never seem to learn their lesson. And don’t even get me started on the rough and destructive nature of such tiny and innocent-looking creatures!
But, as any mother will tell you, together with a talent for destruction and havoc, these boys also have a charm offensive gene ingrained in their DNA. Sweet kisses and the cuddliest (is there even such a word?) cuddles you could ask for. The innate desire to always surprise you with, uh, dirty pebbles and rocks picked up on the street. The adoring look on their faces when they see you. I tell you, it’s enough to make any woman melt.
Which is probably why, when they come running up to you after another nasty fall, their big eyes brimming with unshed tears, it always feels like a tug of war between the instinct to scoop them up in a big hug and coo away their pain, or pat them on the head with a “Gotta be tough” stance.
Nobody bats an eyelash when faced with very close mother-and-daughter relationships, or when little girls cry over nothing and are soothed and danced around by their fathers. Everyone just smiles and attributes it to being “Papa’s girl,” but it is quite the opposite with boys.
In the case of the latter, lines such as “Masyadong mama’s boy!” are often thrown without the same affection. And in the dating world, being a “mama’s boy” may be the kiss of death to some.
However, if we look around us, the Philippine society is definitely dominated by its matriarchs, so why the allergy to “mama’s boys?” A Filipino “mama’s boy” is really not something unusual because of the power our women have.
Wives usually handle the house budget. Jokes about husbands being “under” and sons being “mama’s boys” are usually half-meant, if not entirely true. But what exactly is a “mama’s boy,” and is it so bad to be one?
Definitions range from the charming little boys who adore their moms and refuse to be separated from them, to the young men who have a close emotional relationship with their mothers but, according to wikipedia.com, also extends to men who are “excessively attached to their mother at an age when they are expected to be independent.”
There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the first two definitions, but perhaps the third, referring to the “excessive” attachment, is what has probably caused generation upon generation of mothers to try and raise their sons by following what Dr. William Pollack, author of “Real Boys” and a Harvard psychology professor, calls the “Boy Code.”
According to Dr. Pollack, the “Boy Code” is all about teaching our sons to “Be a man, be strong, be brave, don’t be a sissy, don’t show your feelings.” In cases where boys don’t conform to this formula, society is never missing in members who tease and embarrass boys until they learn to hide behind the “mask of masculinity.”
Having to hide behind the “mask of masculinity” prevents boys from feeling their “unacceptable” emotions, with the exception of anger, the one accepted and expected male emotion. Thus, in times of loneliness or depression, Dr. Pollack says that it is not unusual for some teenage boys (and adults) to exhibit mood swings and bouts of anger and violence as a reaction to the emotions they feel but are forced to repress.
The foundation for this mask is usually established early in childhood. Some mothers, fearing that their emotional and feminine ways may hold back their son’s “masculine” development, refrain from showering their sons with the same emotional and affectionate love that they do their daughters.
There is less discussion on the whole spectrum of emotions, because it is unacceptable for a boy to be that sensitive to both physical and emotional episodes.
Acknowledging the pain
For instance, a young boy who falls and wounds himself is told it is nothing, rather than acknowledging the pain and helping them learn that just as they get hurt, so do others whom they push or hit.
In another instance, boys who cry because they are teased or rejected may be encouraged by their parents not to let it affect them in an effort to strengthen their character, but if this is done without processing their pain, then the strength they gain is incomplete, and the emotional trauma may haunt them and reappear as issues in their adult years.
But must every trait associated with mothers, and therefore femininity, be rejected, simply for the sake of emphasizing one’s masculinity and difference from the opposite sex? While it is important to recognize and respect the differences between male and female, it is equally important to recognize that being compassionate, and being able to empathize and show emotions, are not about being “effeminate”; they’re about being human.
A strong and healthy mother-and-son relationship is nothing to be afraid of and should not be discouraged. According to Dr. Pollack, “Far from making boys weaker, the love of a mother actually does make boys stronger, emotionally and psychologically. Far from making boys dependent, the base of safety that a loving mother can create provides a boy with the courage to explore the outside world.
“But most importantly, far from making a boy act in ‘girl-like’ ways, a loving mother actually plays an integral role in helping a boy develop his masculinity.”
A mother, being a boy’s first glimpse into the world of women, can help her son understand how to relate to women in the future and thus become a better man—the kind of man that any girl would be happy to date and marry.