Mothers’ Day – Part II – “Blazing a New Trail with your Teenage Son”

May 10th, 2012 by | Print

It has to be one of the most heart-wrenching things a woman faces during motherhood.  You spend years and countless hours of your life pouring into your boy – meeting his emotional, physical, social and intellectual needs.  Then one day, when that magic switch of puberty turns on, his focus turns inward, and you become “Mrs. Cellophane” – almost invisible to him.  Hundreds of millions of women, spanning the globe, since the dawn of time have felt this very feeling.

At this crucial point in a young man’s life, a lot of moms make the understandable mistake of moving closer to their sons – putting a full court press on and trying to restore the relationship back to a steady state.  Of course it’s natural for moms to want to coax their teenage boys back to that comfortable place where she is the “end all/be all”.  I”m sure for most moms it feels like you were just  kicked to the curb.

Everything is changing – their bodies, voices, preparing for high school, and new attractions to the opposite sex.  It’s all evolving and so must their relationships with their moms.  Do you know how uncomfortable it is when the hormones start raging in a teenage boy, with all these new found sexual feelings, and your primary female relationship in your life is your mother?! Can you say awkward?  Of course he is going to be asking for some distance!

But ladies, when your son starts to spread his wings you must recognize that your role as a mom is changing.  I know this message seems rather harsh and somewhat cruel.  But if you can accept the new place in his life, you can save yourself a lot of heartache and actually forge something beautiful and new.  Fighting too hard to hang onto the past can cause deep-seated bitterness and long-term resentment in a teenage son.  If mom doesn’t give the adequate space during a boy’s manhood transition feelings of anger and disappointment can develop and hang round the edges of a mother-son relationship well into adulthood.

Sorry, ladies. The next leg of your son’s journey requires active direction from somebody who’s been down the road he’s getting ready to travel. There are countless coming-of-age stories in literature and movies, tales where the boy sets out on a journey toward manhood. Luke Skywalker, Tom Sawyer, Frodo – of all the boys-to-men stories ever been told, I can’t recall one time where the boy asks his mom to show him the way.

In his book, Father Fiction, Donald Miller talks about growing up without a father and the deep masculine void he experienced through adolesence and beyond.  Miller recalled how his mom did the best she could to fill the gap, but just wasn’t equipped to give him what he needed to become a man.  Miller talks about growing up without a masculine model in his life and how it created confusion, skepticism, rebelliousness and self-doubt in the depths of his psyche.  It wasn’t until a male mentor stepped into his life in his 20s to show him the ways of manhood that Miller finally received the nourishment he needed for his masculine soul.

Around puberty, the best thing for a mom to do is to accept a different role in her son’s life.  You are still hugely important – but in a brand new way.  If your son doesn’t have a reliable and trustworthy male in his life then do whatever you can to invite somebody (relative, friend, sports coach, youth group leader, etc.) to take on an expanded mentoring role in your son’s life.  During adolescence, it’s imperative that a young man have a  relationship with an older man who thinks he is worth his time and effort.  Mom, openly acknowledge to your son that he’s becoming a man and that it’s ok for your relationship to grow in new ways.

Ultimately, young men need to hear the same thing that every man needs to hear – that you feel they are strong and capable and respected.  They need to be encouraged by their moms (and dads too) to get out there and try new things, because you’re his biggest fan.  And when your boy gets wounded in this thing called life, as he surely will, a young man needs to know his mom is not going to come and rescue him or fix his problem.   If he comes to you with his failures and troubles, you need to give him two very strong mom messages:  1) you’ll always be there to listen; 2) you believe he has what it takes to take on whatever challenge comes his way.

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