Monday, May 22, 2006

I was very happy when I read your request for stories from single moms raising sons! I've navigated the treacherous waters of raising a son as a singl

I was very happy when I read your request for stories from single moms raising sons! I've navigated the treacherous waters of raising a son as a single mom for 10 years now. It started out with a very dim view of the possible outcomes and almost no information beyond the warnings from practically everyone "he needs a mans view/guidance or he's going to grow up strange/damaged/ ..... insert miscellaneous scary warning here." I was fortunate, I have a brother, a lot of close and wonderful male friends since childhood, and I maintained a cooperative relationship with my sons' dad strictly for my sons benefit. My boyfriend loves my son and the feelings are mutual (sometimes I must admit, my son likes him better than me, he's good at Xbox and catching bigger Bluefish, neither of which I can say I'm masterful at, but I'm catching up. My son often asks for "just guys" time. Ouch) I had a network of friends and family with boys I volunteered every weekend to babysit all for my son. My boy has never lacked male attention or company.

....and yet, it wasn't enough for him. No matter how many opportunities and loving male attention my son had he was still angry. It was like pouring water into a bottomless well. Just when he came off a great visit with his dad, or my boyfriend spent an exhausting day putting together a planetarium complete with mini-laser lights or practicing for baseball, or my brother brought him to a movie or to Disney my boy was still angry and it showed in his behavior at school and his dislike of (all female!!) authority figures, aka "mean teachers who only care about following rules and bossing me around... " Calls from school were a daily occurance. He was in serious trouble. So much for the theory of male figures in their lives being the sole factor in avoiding the pitfalls of raising a boy as a single mom. There was alot more to this than I realized and I went through Hell and back figuring it out.

I filled my bookshelves at home with the "Raising Cain" and "Protecting the Emotional World of Boys" books. They helped a little, but the key came from my son directly. The answer for my spitfire boy was simple, he told me over and over again but I didn't hear him then, "mom, bet you can't play this level of Star Wars with me and beat me" and "mom, you pitch to me" and "mom, let's go ride our bikes at the dirt puddle, eat tacos every day and see what I look like without a bath for a week" If I wanted to raise a happier boy delegating or rejecting parts of his needs as a boy wouldn't cut it for him. The men-folk told him all of these things were the thing to do and I repaid their hard work by rejecting it over and over. What's good enough for boys wasn't good enough for moms, and this was not good at all for my son.

I was his closest connection in the world, I was his role model for relationships towards females, I was the person he identified with and understood more than anyone else so far. I was the constant in a constantly changing world. When dad or uncle or boyfriend weren't available mom was always available 24/7. If I separated his experiences into "male stuff" and "female stuff" I would set him up for a constant battle with women who he'd see are never fun, they're just good at making sure you eat your broccoli and do your assignments and make you sit still for 6 hours a day, at the same time they were all he felt safe with and he would try to be like against his own very nature, tough paradox. It was little wonder my son felt angry and began to resent women making him into something he wasn't, mom had to get down and dirty in the mud if I wanted him to be ok. I had to make alot of changes for this little man.

I let him study for tests while doing jumping jacks on the bed or on his mini trampoline. I went out and got my first set of cleats, fishing poles and roller blades. I enlisted all of my male resources in teaching me the basics of "guy stuff." Not fun at first, my fastball was pathetic and learning how to slide into a base mangled me, I wore flip flops to my first fishing outing (ever try to clean a fish you caught in flip flops? Every girls' nightmare. I scrubbed my feet for a week and of course none of the males in my circle warned me when I showed up beyond those sneaky grins to each other that burst out into gales of laughs when my time came. Guys seem to endorse the hard-knocks method of supporting each other and I, as a guy in training, was not exempt from this lovingly cruel ritual. I got it though! ) I let him roller blade in the house and let his bath time go until even he had to admit he wasn't "tan" he was covered in grub. My home is filled with the lovely sounds of burping contests and toe cheese tag. Now I play baseball good enough to coach his team and I do sometimes, I've got a mean method of catching the trickiest of bass (no weights and one bright feather on the hook with a slow swaying/wiggle of the line every few minutes, works every time. I wear the ugliest biggest boots ever invented, if they keep my toes fish-gut free they're better than Prada heels.) Bruises/scrapes and dirty fingernails, I look like I went rounds with De La Hoya on some days. I ride bikes in the rain with him, puddle-hits are extra points in my sons eyes, the more mud splashed on my legs the higher my stock goes, if an earthworm lands on me I've been blessed by the boy-gods, my son thought I was incredibly lucky when this happened, I smile and fight every instinct in my being to pick it up with reverance and not heave, so far so good. Flinch and you're lame mom, I'm happy to say I don't flinch anymore. I still haven't mastered Yugi Oh cards but some things have to be left to my sons friends to teach. My boy is open to learning from them now.

My son does his best for his teachers too. Awards at school and grateful teachers who are relieved at the improvement. One good turn deserves another. I couldn't expect him to identify with males and then shoot down the things they taught him that I didn't like. That's a recipe for resentment. Once I made everything they were showing him ok he began to trust himself and the males in his life. He could finally trust women in the process and navigate the differences with love, humor and patience. I handed my son over to the guy-side and I visit him there. Time will tell if he will ultimately be ok. Parenting a boy, as a single parent or otherwise is a huge leap of faith into the unknown. There are other factors to consider beyond these. You do your best and pray for the rest.

I have no doubt a boy needs a healthy connection to other boys/men so that he learns how to identify which male traits he has in common with them and learn different ways how to handle them, but more than this he needs the number one woman in his life to allow these connections to flourish and make them ok. Without this a boy can be surrounded by wonderful male role models and male friends he won't connect to. My boy can burp and make fun of my girlie toenails any time he wants. In my house it's ok to leave the toilet seat up, if I don't get the right tool or equiptment for the task than I deserve a bunch of hilarious teasing when I botch it, and no I don't mind riding through the earthworm patch of dirt on our street, I might get another one to land on my leg from mud puddle splashes... tre cool.

Mom to Nick the Spitfire, 10 Years Old

Single Mother's (Single Parent) Raising Sons:

1 comment:

Megan Marie said...

Thanks for this. As a new single mom to a 4 month old, this is the exact advice I needed. Although it is early, I've been worried about whether I'll be enough for the "guy" stuff when the time comes. I'm a tomboy at heart, but this put it all in perspective for me and now I feel reassured. Time to get down and dirty!
Megan Marie
Mama to Jaden, 4 months old