Strong Mothers, Strong Sons
When I was pregnant with my first, I really wanted a girl. But Allah gifted me a boy. And then two years later, another. Because I did not grow up with a father or brothers, sports, getting dirty, and even changing a boy’s diaper was a whole other world for me. At the beginning, it was very foreign, but overtime, I embraced it. As I said, I wanted a girl, but Allah knew what I needed. The love and relationships I have with my sons is one of the most special things in my life, which I am so incredibly grateful for.
That being said, I gave to admit the whole boy thing is still somewhat foreign territory for me, so I need to brush up on my skills and look elsewhere for help and guidance everyone now and then. And alhamdulillah, I came across this book, as recommended by Confessions of a Muslim Mommaholic. Its one of those books that I just had to write notes for. My plan was to write a book review for the blog but it turned more into a summary. In all honesty I don’t know what the difference is, but I just had to quote the gems I came across. I highly recommend reading this book. I’m so glad I did – I really feel it was one of those life changing books that left a positive impact on my life and the way I understand how to mother boys.
I cited my favourite quotes which I felt captured the message of each chapter.
You Are His First Love
Everyone knows, has heard of, or has experienced the infamous curse of the mother-in-law drama. And I believe a lot of this stems from the fear that mothers feel their daughter-in-laws will steal their sons away from this. However if we embrace the fact that the mother-son bond is unique and one that can be special regardless of the bond between our sons and their wives, inshaAllah we can begin to break the cycle.
“We needn’t be afraid. The love that we share with our sons is unlike any other love and we must feel condident about this. No one can replace us in our sons lives. When we really wrap our minds around this truth, we will feel much less afraid of loosing them….” [page 18]
He’s Got a Bow and Arrow (And the Target’s on Your Back)
This is something I have not yet experienced, but am hoping that knowing about it can help me prepare and deal with it when the time comes around inshaAllah. My eldest is hitting nine now, the teenage years are just around the corner *heart skips a beat* and I know as my duties lessen physically, they are increasing mentally and emotionally. May Allah help us all! Ameen!
“There are a few key rules to surviving the mother-son wars. The first is that you need to have a through understanding of what’s going on. The second is to recognize that the war your son is waging has very little to do with you, and everything to do with the male development. Finally since you are the grown-up and he is the child (yup – even at eighteen) you can get the upper hand pretty quickly – as long as you keep your wits about you.” [page 67]
Just as we never took our sons tantrums personally when they were three years old, we should try not to take him personally when he has one at sixteen. Obviously there are still lines that cannot be crossed and respect is a must, helping to understand what is going on in his mind can help us to make things easier for everyone.
You Are His Home
The gift Allah has given a mother, to always have her sons heart, is something that should be cherished. No matter how much he loves his wife, or inshaAllah how amazing his marriage is, we should and never will be competition so long as we embrace that our relationship with him is unique. We are his home, and we never want him to run away from home out of of fear of the backlash of jealousy.
“Then one day, a young man in his thirties named Bill summed it up perfectly. He said, ‘My mother is Home. She represents everything good and right, comforting and safe. She is where I want to go when I hurt and the first person I went to call if something good happens. My wife loves me, but my mom is my biggest fan.’ “…. [page 97]
“For a boy to learn early in his life that what he likes, what he is good at, and what he wants are all important. But, in the end, unless he learns how to use those things to help others around him he will never recognize the true purpose of his life, nor will he live a more fulfilled life. ” [page 104]
When kids are young and small, it’s easy to give them the love and the attention they need, but as they get older, it can get complicated. I found these tips to be a good reminder.
“In my experience, there are few things that we can do to love and accept our sons better:
– Look at him in the eye frequently…
– Don’t be shocked by him…
– Try not to get rattled…
– Skip the blame game…
– Don’t bring up past mistakes…
– Forgive him… [page 129]
If God Wore Lipstick, He’d Wear Your Shade
This title caught me off guard, but after reading it, I understood what the author was trying to say. Basically our sons don’t believe we are god (obviously), but their first glimpses of God will be through us. If they see we are loving, soft and forgiving, inshaallah he will begin to form his beliefs in the same light. However, the opposite can also be true. This reminded me of many ahadith on the emphasis of showing mercy to others in our deen.
“That’s why it is important that we must take the lead in addressing spiritual issues; because he can’t. We must have our radar up so that when fear or disappointment strike, we are ready to engage him with some answers about God and how He can help him weather the storms. ” [page 138]
“Practicing a faith in God is not only good for our boys; it can be a lifesaver for us as mothers. Being a mother can be a lonely and tough job. Acknowledging this need for faith is hard for those of us who want to be strong and self – sufficient, but who are we trying to kid? We are mothers to some incredibly great boys, boys who need a whole lot of advice, love, and support. And in order to give those things to our sons, we need the same. The best way to give advice is o have received it from a wiser person. The best way to love our sons better is to have extraordinarily loved ourselves. And the very best way to support out sons is to know what it feels like to depend on someone and recieve support. God, I believe, offers all of this and more to any of us mothers willing to take a risk and ask Him for it. ” [page 156]
Give Him an Ax
I liked this chapter, because in essence, giving my son more work, means less work for me. It really is a win win situation when we get our sons involved around the house. They feel productive, and we get the help we need.
“So what does it mean to ‘give an ax’? This metaphor represents the times throughout his life when you bestow upon him your “blessings” to be more independent. When you do this, you will give him tools (sometimes literal ones, the other times cognitive or emotional ones) to understand his own capabilities. Then you must help him exercise those capabilities i na way that reinforces his independence.” [page 157]
“He may whine or grumble, but don’t pay attention. Make him help you in the garden, ask him to go to the grocery store for you, or you can even opt to do what I did : ask him to start supper. By doing this, my son quickly grew into a terrific cook. … And remember, asking him to do physical work isn’t punishment; approach him with it as if you are asking him to do a favour, because you know how strong and capable he is. “
You Are His Connection to Dad
We all know the important of having and involved father. No matter how good a father-son relationship is, we can always make it better. By improving our relationships with our husbands, which includes praising him, stepping down and letting him do things his way, and just general peace and kindness between parent benefits a child on all levels.
“It’s time to recognize that we cant do it all, we can’t buy it all and the only other ingredient in their lives that is as important as us is their father. … The healthy way to view our sons need is to recognize that his is born into a family unit. He beclongs not just to us, but to others as well; his father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings. He needs them in different ways that he needs us, but those ways are really terribly important. When we parent as if those people dont really matter, we parent exclusibly. Subconsciously, we cut our sons of from an imporant source of influence and love. And when we do that, our son lsoes. But when we shift our perspective and leanr to parent inclusivly, our son wins. And so do we. [page 209]
We should never try to compete with our sons relationship with his father. We are their mothers and no one can replace that bond. It will in fact only strengthen his bond with us if we teach him to turn to their father.
“Giving our sons fathers applause changed them. Men who feel encouraged are far more liely to parent better than men who feel beaten up at everyt turn by their wives at home. Wes, we are communicators by natre, but tweaking how we communicate can haev a strong imparct on our loved ones. One of the best gifts we can gve our sons is to praise their dads. Happier dads means happier sons, and that us the ultimate goal of us moms. ” [ page 215]
Sex on the Brain and What Mom Says
I didn’t want to read this chapter. My sons are only eight and six. I’m not ready to talk about the s word yet. But alhamdulillah I’m happy I did because I believe in the importance of being prepared. Afterall, I think it might take a few years for me to get used to the idea of talking to my kids about this.
There was a story in this chapter about a son who disclosed a sexual encounter that made him uncomfortable to his mother. The author illustrated the importance of being open and receptive when it comes to our children’s communication, especially when it comes to sex.
“First, Heather made time and space for her son to talk about something that was troubling him. Too often, because we are so busy multitasking, we mothers are engaged in whatever feels most pressing at the moment, and so we may miss something important. We need to make time to look at our sons face to face, to see what they’re feeling and talk to them about it. Then we need to make sure that were really present with them during the conversation, relaxed and ready to really listen. ” [page 236]
I found these pointers to be helpful when it comes to initiating conversations with our kids.
“I would have a conversation like this. “Tommy, you make hear things at school about what moms and dads do when they love each other. They kiss, for instance. When you hear things that you don’t understand, make sure to come and tell me os that I can explain. I know all about grown up things and want you to get answers from me because sometime skids get their answers mixed up. Does that sound okay?” This gives your son permission to listen to other kids and also warns him that someone is going to say something about where babies come from that might bother him. When he hears things, he will be less shocked. Remember that theres a kid in every class who has older siblings and who loved to shock his friends. And more important, it identifies you as the go-to person whenever he has questions about six. ” [page 245]
Wisdom and Responsibility
I loved this chapter as it emphasized something I strongly believe in; following your instincts as a mother. This chapter beautifully summarizes it.
“In order to give your son more of you, abandon your fears about what you feel you should be doing. Begin listening to your heart and your instincts, because that is where you will find your great wisdom as a mother. Every mother has an innate sense about their children that can guide her, but I can tell you that if you feel anxious, depressed, and exhausted, you will not be able to hear it. On the other hand, if you slow down enough to listen, you will find that the combination of your life experiences as a mother and woman, the intuition you have as a mother and woman, your moral foundation, your judgement and your heart will lead you to the right parenting path.” [page 259]
Back to the whole letting go thing…
“No mother can truly be close to her son until she sets him free. This is a pain unique to the mother-son relationship. Fathers don’t have to let their sons go because psychologically, boys don’t feel the need to separate from their dad. Because they are both male, as our sons grow older, they develop a different sort of relationship with their fathers. [page 313]
And one of my favourite quotes in the entire book, at the very end:
“Something quite mysterious happens when a mother lets go of her little boy. She gets back a man – not just any man but one who shares her values, knows her flaws, accepts her weaknesses and cares for her in a way that no other man can. He is her son and she is his mom. And that is about as good as life gets.” [Page 316]
May Allah help us and guide is to raise boys into extraordinary men, and make them a means of sadaqah jaariyah for us, Ameen!