Saying Goodbye to Bedtime Kisses

June 9th, 2014 by | Print

A familiar scene plays itself out in households across the world every evening around bedtime. As teenage boys are getting ready to sack out for the night they do their best to sneak by mom to avoid giving her a kiss goodnight.  What was once a warm and tender show of affection between mother and son has now become an awkward dance.  An emotional tug-of-war of sorts.  No offense mom but even if your teenage son is still kissing you goodnight, chances are he’s wishing he could just dart off to his room and skip the pre-bed ritual altogether. As a result, there are scores of hurt and angry moms, spanning the globe, wondering the very same thing. What happened to my little boy?

While women tend to have a pretty good sense of the basic needs of adult males, moms tend to misread the tea leaves with regard to their teenage boys. Why do moms so often miss the cues, clues and vibes their sons are giving to them? Because we naturally want to hold tightly to relationships where we’ve developed a profound emotional investment. And there’s no greater emotional bond than between mother and child.

No doubt it’s hard for any mom to admit her little boy is becoming a man and to release him to the manhood journey he was meant to embark upon. While moms intuitively know it’s natural for a young man to pull away from the warmth, comfort and safety of maternal love, it has to feel like pure rejection and absolute abandonment

It’s no coincidence that this relational shift happens around 13 years of age, right? Once a young man starts into puberty a lot of things begin changing thanks to a constant surge of testosterone throughout his body. As a result, he starts seeing women in a whole new way. New and intense feelings are awakened. Body hair starts sprouting in new places. His voice starts changing. Male body parts start expanding and contracting at a moment’s notice. There’s no doubt teenage boys experience some pretty massive physiological and emotional changes.

Now imagine if you’re a young man and your libido starts kicking into overdrive for the first time. You start checking out the girls at school in a whole new way and suggestive TV shows and commercials have a whole new allure.   Teenage boys are notoriously dense, but all of a sudden he starts making the connection that mom is in the same gender category as the young ladies he’s wildly attractive to. Now that’s a major “yuck” and a tough one to process for any young man.

As he becomes increasingly aware of and strangely attracted to female body parts it doesn’t take long for a young man to recognize that his mother not only has those same parts but she may have even used one of them to give birth to him! Worse yet, at some point he may have even suckled some of these body parts for nourishment as an infant! Now that’s the definition of “awkward” in teenage boy land.

I’m not saying that teenage boys have the hots for mom and there’s some Freudian-Oedipal thing going on. Rather, during puberty they are simply sorting out the feelings they have for women in general. And with mom being, well, a woman, there’s some level of confusion taking place.

So what’s a mother to do? It’s a tricky situation for sure. The most common strategy a mom will employ is to work harder to regain the emotional connection that seems to be slipping away. Women are relational masterminds but even the most skilled mother will likely get shot down trying to cozy back up to a bristling teenage boy. Moms, if your teenage son is acting extra rude toward you, he’s probably asking for a change in your relationship and doesn’t exactly know how to say it.  

Here’s the deal. Every teenage boy needs a father, uncle, brother, grandpa, coach or male mentor to step into his life in a significant and profound way to give him what he is craving…positive masculine energy.  No offense to the moms but your teenage son is asking for the road map to manhood. And the best thing a mom can do is to encourage, facilitate and release her teenage son to the mentoring of a trustworthy adult man. Mom will always play a key role in her son’s life. But it’s important for her to recognize and accept that their relationship was meant to change….meant to evolve into something new, different and special.

As a society we need to start helping moms process and work through this transition with grace and dignity. Women need to know that a relational shift with their teenage son is a natural and expected developmental stage and not a maternal failing. I am amazed that there’s so little understanding and discussion about this phenomenon that touches the lives of just about every person on the planet.

Moms across the globe are perplexed and struggling and we need to support them through this transition. In order to shed some necessary light on this issue we should create a clinical diagnosis to describe it better.  How about Testro Pubescent Disassociation Syndrome or something really catchy like “testrogen tension”? Regardless, we need to do a better job of preparing moms so they are not shocked and surprised when their teenage son changes before their eyes.

So what’s a mom to do? First of all, it’s important to remember that your attention and affection is still crucial to the healthy development of your young man. He needs to know you still love and respect him. The worst thing to do is to shut off your emotional overtures altogether or to make a big deal about his maternal dissonance. It’s important for you to show him you respect his wishes so be ready to retreat a little. But here’s the trick…you can’t back off altogether. Look for opportunities to let him know you care about him in less overt and more creative ways. Oh yeah, still try to hug him or snuggle with him or kiss him from time to time but be emotionally prepared for him to pull back. Remember, he still wants and needs your attention and affection but in smaller doses and in different ways.

After years of sacrificial love and devotion there’s nothing more painful than getting the cold shoulder from your teenage son. But keep in mind that how you handle this delicate shift will go a long way in determining the quality of your adult relationship with your son.   It’s tough to see the bigger picture when you are in the middle of it. But remember, while you may be losing your little boy, in the long-run you will someday be gaining a man.


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