I remember being a single mom just like it was yesterday, it was just me and him. To this day, he knows me better than anybody. Often when I’m in a bad mood my oldest son is the one who tells everybody: just leave mommy alone she needs her space. He also knows how to push my buttons to make me mad and get what he wants. But, I’m learning. And even now that he is heading into tweenhood, he still wants to play sometimes. Whether it’s in the form of, “Hey mom help me make this science project from YouTube,” or “Let’s play this video game together,” he still needs a lot of my attention, despite now having a man in his life. My son and my husband have a great relationship, but it makes me happy that he still needs me. But, just as vividly as I recall our closeness, I also remember having to be rough with him during our single years. I had lunch with a good friend, who is a phenomenal single mommy, and she talked about her son requesting that she not be so serious as a New Year’s resolution.
That same day I witnessed a parent at my youngest son’s pre-school, who was not so phenomenal, picking her son up from school with almost no affection. There was a “hi” and then nothing. No hug, or “how was your day,” or even “you alright.” They just walked out and got into their car without mom even opening the door for him. And, I couldn’t help, but think about the contrast. The difference between the environment he just left (with teachers tending to his needs, teaching him, maybe even hugging him) to a home that may be devoid of affection.
Sometimes I think we forget as Brown Mamas that we are competing with for our children’s affection. I’ve read several articles around the blogsphere about African-American women failing to raise upstanding male children. While, I do believe a man is necessary to raise a man, I also think our brown mamas, single moms or not, are more than capable of raising great boys and girls when they have access to the right resources.
However, I do think that we could often use a tune-up in our mommy-son relations. They need us to be soft with them sometimes. I remember facing seemingly insurmountable odds when I was a single-mom. From working and going to school full-time, to vicious arguments with my son’s father to feelings of loneliness, low self-worth and being just plain tired, it was often impossible for me to put on a smile for him. But, mamas we’ve got to find a way, at least sometimes. We can’t let these teachers and school administrators show our children more affection and love than we do.
Sometimes just leave the kitchen dirty. Lie — yes I said lie– to that professor and tell him your son had an ear infection and spend some one-on-one time with your boy. Even when my 12-year-old was 4 it was very clear to me that the number one thing I wanted him to be was a good father and husband. Whenever I would ask him if he was going to have a wife when he grows up he would say, “I already have a wife mommy. It’s you.” So mamas don’t forget that his first female relationship is with you. No, you don’t want him to physically marry you, nor should you treat him like a man before it is naturally time for him to be one. But, you do want to make sure he knows he deserves love and affection from the women he makes central to his life. And that first woman will be you.