By Dr. Meg Meeker
There is a world of difference between a mother having a healthy emotional connection with her son, and a son becoming so emotionally reliant on his mother that he becomes the prototypical boy who is overly dependent upon his mother—a “mama’s boy.”
Though estrangement is the flip side of enmeshment, it is often the result of the same causes: divorce, single motherhood, or a history of sexual abuse. In this case, it causes a mother to feel estranged from her son simply because he is male.
When a son enters a mother’s life, many feelings from her own childhood are triggered. As she swaddles her new son and pulls him towards her chest, he becomes a catalyst for the eruption of emotions that may have been repressed many years earlier. This isn’t his fault. This is the normal and often healthy reaction of a parent.
The reality of a mother’s love is that it sometimes comes out sideways. Mothers are often tired, manipulated, and they make mistakes. They scream when they mean to apologize. They feel guilty that they have to work rather than stay at home with their children. They worry about all the things that can go wrong.
Studies reveal that most women talk about twice as much as men over the course of the day. Women are expressive, and that expressiveness helps mothers become the emotional connector within a family.
Because a mother can see through a gnarled physique, a low IQ, a beast-like temper, or a chronic disease right to the soul of her son, she can spot the beauty within him, which allows her to love him.
Mothers embody pride for sons and daughters from the moment they are born. They are proud because the child belongs to them, but beyond that defensive ownership a mother feels pride for her son because he is male.
In our sophisticated, electronics-saturated, post-modern culture, the threats to a boy’s health are insidious and terribly elusive. So good mothers keep their eyes wide open and their ears alert.
A mother may disapprove of her son’s behavior, girlfriend, sports, or music, but she will always love him.
Beneath the ethereal joy a mother feels at the first sight of her son, lies a nugget-sized ache wrapped in fear. Her infant son needs her. She loves him unconditionally. But she also feels the ache of knowing that he will grow into a man and leave, and one day belong to another.
Men, good men: We need you. We—mothers, daughters, and sisters—need your help to raise healthy young women. We need every ounce of masculine courage and wit you own, because fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life.
Every day, 21,000 teens will become infected with a new STD. In fact, a British study found that almost half of all girls are likely to become infected with an STD during their very first sexual experience. We have a serious problem on our hands.
As a doctor I can probe, culture, prescribe antibiotics, and aggressively treat and track contagious STDs. But depression is different. It’s more elusive, yet equally, if not more, dangerous. It can come and go, or it can settle in, making itself so comfortable in an adolescent’s psyche that it’s nearly impossible to extricate.
Whatever one’s personal view, your son wants to know—and needs to know—why he’s here, what his purpose in life is, why he is important. Boys who don’t have a well-grounded understanding on these big questions are the most vulnerable to being led astray into self-destructive behaviors.
Chances are you don’t realize it, but right now, at this very minute, there is an epidemic racing through the lives of our teenagers. This epidemic literally threatens their very lives. I am a pediatrician. I see and treat these youngsters every day. I’d like you to meet some of my patients.
From the moment your daughter first sees you, she gives you hero status. Why? Because every little girl sees her father as larger than life. She wants you to be terrific. So regardless of how terrific you feel, your daughter, thinks that you are.
Dad, are a template for all male figures—teachers, boyfriends, her husband, uncles, and even God himself—in your daughter’s life. Because you are there form her earliest years, you set a template over your daughter’s mind and heart regarding how she will interact with all males. If you are kind, she will expect all males to be kind. If you are harsh and critical then she will expect the same treatment from other men.
A daughter listens to the tone of her father’s voice when he speaks, so make sure that your daughter hears you compliment—not criticize—others. This will give her a very clear sense that you perceive them to be as valuable as everyone else, including yourself.
Men love differently than women. That’s why you scratch your head in confusion when your daughter or wife cries and insists that you don’t understand. They want you to know what they want, like, and need, without ever telling you. You, on the other and, love deeply but differently.
Every mother worries about failing her kids. We wonder what we will do if our kids turn against us, grow up to hate us or end up disliking their lives. These are natural worries but unfortunately these fears can drive us crazy.
Connect With Dr. Meg Meeker
Visit Dr. Meeker's Resource Page
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health.
Dr. Meg writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 25 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine while also helping parents and teens to communicate more deeply about difficult topics such as sex, STDs and teen pregnancy. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her new groundbreaking book, The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers, Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity out from Ballantine Books. Visit Dr. Meg's Resource page.
Dr. Meg’s popularity as a speaker on key issues confronting American families has created a strong following on her blogs for Psychology Today. She has also spoken nationally on teen health issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs. Additionally, Dr. Meg lends her voice to regular features in Physician Magazine and Psychologies (UK) and was a contributor to QUESTIONS KIDS ASK ABOUT SEX: Honest Answers for Every Age, The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care (Tyndale House Publishers) and High School Science text, Holt-Rhinehart and Winston, 2004.
Dr. Meg is presently re-certifying with the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the National Advisory Board of the Medical Institute, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University; Munson Hospital Family Practice Residency Training Program 1998-present.
Dr. Meeker lives and works in Traverse City, MI where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four grown children.
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