A couple years ago, a good friend of mine told me a story about that illustrates the significant and special relationship between a mother and her son.
It’s a story of a tribe located in the Ivory Coast. This tribe places such value and significance on the threshold of when young boys become men, that there is an intense dramatic scene that actually takes place for every boy.
I suppose a newspaper headline might describe this dramatic moment as something like this: Son Ripped From Mother’s Arms By Hatch Bearing Father, Same As Last Year.
No seriously. Ok,here’s what happens: the young boy is at home working side-by-side his mother, just as he has for his entire life up to this very point. This boy’s everyday rhythm has been working with his mother as they together provide and prepare all the basic needs that will generate life.
Then, when the boy is old enough and the time is right…the moment comes. Suddenly, the mother sees the village men storming into her family’s hut, yanking her son from away from her (the village men typically carry some sort of weapon). She shrieks and wails, screaming at the men to not “take her son from her breast”. She flails and scrambles to hold onto her son. Clawing and reaching hands leave scratches on the boy’s arms as a symbol on his skin of her earnest love.
Ultimately they are separated…
The mother returns to work. The men take the boy away. It’s time for that young boy to be trained and initiated into manhood.
Whoa. Dramatic, right?
What do you think? Are the sons victims? Are the mothers the victims??
Is there something much deeper going on here?
Must we as mothers release our little baby boys in order for them to fully become men?
Now, I cannot comment on this first hand, because it’s true, I have never born a son. But, what I do know is, the biology of a woman releasing a child is difficult. It is. Is there something significant in the specific mother-son relationship that needs to be released?
As my friend and I discussed the depth and meaning of this custom, she pointed out that the village depends on the men being trained to protect and provide food for the tribe. Up to this point, the boys are held at home to be nurtured and taught the values and rhythms of life. They are tutored in relationships, village politics and leadership…by who? By their mothers. They do this because they see the importance of the young boys being able to see and experience, first hand the importance of ALL that they will someday be protecting.
What does it look like to let a boy experience this departure from boyhood and the entering into manhood?
How does a mother release her son?
Now, just the clarify, I am not suggesting that we all need this ritual in our cities and towns. But in studying the teenage brain, I continue to see the significance of the transitions for boys during the teenage years that is different, psychologically, from girls transitions.
The testosterone that is released in a woman’s system through the pregnancy with a son is miraculous. The fetus’ hormone levels are literally foreign to the woman’s body–large levels of testosterone are coursing through her body. She is biologically experiencing something different than her own cellular structure. Not only is she experiencing it, but a life is being formed deep within her womb and the fetus with it’s elevation of testosterone is fighting for a place to grow.
A mother’s bond with their son in a unique experience and literally lays the foundation for a boy’s emotional health. The mother, is literally THE source of life and is the first experience that little baby boy will know of love. No wonder grown men so often return to their mommas in their moments of greatest triumph and excitement! Give a grown man in professional athletics a moment on camera and chances are you’ll hear him shout a, “Hi mom!” or “Love you mom!”
So how do mothers let go of a love so special and tender like this one? How can we as moms release that kind of attention and make space to empower our sons to become men?
This ripping apart, pulling away is something that is hard to define and I am sure even harder to do, yet it is so vital to the health of a man and his capacity to love well.
So moms, what does it look like to release your sons in our own culture? Can you see the value of loving them well and releasing them to be men?
What might that look like? Wouldn’t it be great to start a dialogue about these important aspects of parenting our teens well?
Join me! Post a comment, share a thought. I would love to hear from you.