Singapore mum’s dilemma: Should I stop kissing my son?

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Mum stop kissing son

My son had some of his friends over the other day and I took the opportunity to invite their mums along as well.

We have bonded well since our boys were assigned to the same Primary 1 class three years ago, and still catch up whenever we can.

While we chatted in the dining room, the boys played elsewhere in the house. Then one of them came over, put his arms around his mother and sank into her warmth for a few seconds.

She smiled and hugged him back. After he left as abruptly as he had appeared, she asked somewhat sheepishly: “Do your boys do this? Still come to you for hugs?”

We nodded.

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“I thought what he did was really sweet,” I told her. Just as how we would charge our phones whenever the battery runs low, wrapping himself around his mother for a spell clearly rejuvenates him.

Yes, but he would do this at random, multiple times a day, she said. Such as midway through tackling his homework, for instance. “I’m wondering if it’s a bit too much,” she added.

Another friend expressed the same concern. Her son not only hugs and kisses her in public, but also insists that she reciprocates in kind. He would do this whenever she drops him off at his enrichment class, even with his friends watching.

“I told him to stop embarrassing himself because he is already 10, and everyone is looking. He said, ‘Who cares about what other people think?’,” she recounted. “I’m the one who feels embarrassed.”

At the heart of her exasperation lies a knot of worry. What I see as unbridled affection, she perceives as a sign of immaturity. “I’m scared he will turn into a mummy’s boy,” she confessed.

Therein lies our dilemma. Much as we adore our sons, we mothers feel compelled to dial down physical demonstrations of our love once they hit a certain age.

We are all adhering to what clinical psychologist William S. Pollack termed the “boy code” in his 1998 bestseller, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From The Myths Of Boyhood.

This, essentially, is society’s unhelpful definition of manhood and masculinity, which demands that boys mask or suppress their emotions and vulnerabilities from young so as not to appear weak or needy.

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Forcing boys into this gender straitjacket from an early age risks impairing their emotional development for life, warns Dr Pollack.

Boys, he wrote, grow up amid what he calls “society’s shame-hardening process”. “The idea is that a boy needs to be disciplined, toughened up, made to act like a ‘real man’, be independent, keep the emotions in check. A boy is told that ‘big boys don’t cry’, that he shouldn’t be ‘a mama’s boy’.”

Consequently, we become unsure of how intimate we should be with our sons as they approach or enter adolescence, even as they themselves start conforming to social expectations.

Next page: I have to limit affectionate gestures in front of his friends

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