becoming a man, boys, gender, masculine, masculinity, men, single mom, single parenting, son
Comments about my recent post on “The Return of Masculinity” raised an interesting question,
Can a woman raise a man?”
Or in other words can a mom, especially a single mom, raise a son to be a man? Can she teach him what he needs to know as a man? Guide him in being a man?
I am a single mom, but I have two daughters, no sons. So while I cannot comment on mothering a boy as a single mom, I can comment firsthand on watching my mother try to do so.
My father survived Vietnam but tragically passed away in a car accident after his return. My mom was 27. I was 2. My brother was 4. Now this affected all of us in in profound ways, to be sure, but I have often thought perhaps it affected my brother most of all.
Someone said to him, shortly after, that he was now “the man of the house.” Why people say the things they do when people die I will never know, but I am not sure whether it was to inspire him, or somehow comfort him, but I think what it did, at the tender age of four, was terrify him. That’s a lot to put on a four-year-old.
My mother had no job skills so she went back to school and a wonderful lady, who lived nearby, whose own children were grown, and had lost her own husband a few months prior sought my mom out and offered to babysit us, everyday while she was in school, for free. She was such a blessing to us, this spunky short spitfire of a lady from Kansas, and she made a tough time easier on us all.
But back to my brother. He was a handful. I think while my mom denied her grief as her way to hold it together, he exploded in his. Add that to the fact that he already had ADHD, and now nobody to roughhouse with, or to push back on him, he literally did rule our roost. My exhausted mother placated him with candy and other bribes, just adding to his energy and escalating demands.
Everyone was afraid of my brother at school, and so I never wanted for protection. I was figuratively under his wing, even into my teen years once a guy heard my last name, he was backing away and bowing least he have to deal with my brother’s wrath.
But at home, he was out of control. I can see now he was acting out his pain, but at the time he was a tyrant. He spoke to my mother horribly, and as he got older he bullied her and intimidated her. He bullies me too, and could be very unkind, but while he regularly threatened to pound on me, he never actually did. The older he got, the worse it got.
He played sports and was in Scouts and here and there participated in men’s activities, but outside of that he lived in a world of women between our family, our sitter, and my mom’s friends.
I am told my father was brilliant, and his father as well. Geniuses, they say. My brother is also incredibly intelligent, but in school he was completely undisciplined, between the ADHD and the lack of any real structure or support with homework at home, his grades were abysmal compared to his potential. (my mom, bless her, was homecoming queen, but she is not an intellectual and could not really help my bother past a certain point. I am told I take after my father in temperament and brains, but my brother is far, far smarter than I am.)
One man who took my brother under his wing was his high school band teacher. My brother was a musical prodigy, he said, able to pick up and play pretty much any instrument you put in front of him. He played alto saxophone in the band, and mostly electric guitar for fun at home. He loved Heavy Metal and his heroes were the lead guitar players from these bands.
My bother liked his band teacher (who was also a foster parent) a lot, and he asked my mom when he was in his sophomore year if he could move to his house. My mom was horrified, and said no, but thinking back I wonder if that would not have been the best thing that could happen. I think my brother wanted, and needed, very much a man to guide him.
I am surprised he graduated high school, between the skipping classes, smoking pot, drinking alcohol, minor run ins with the law, and riding his dirt bike at full tilt. But he did, somehow. His grades were equally bad when he went to the local community college. When they dipped below the level for him to continue to get his VA benefits, my mom gave him a choice, join the military or move out on your own. (My father was active duty when he died and so both my brother and I got monthly checks for college under the GI Bill.)
He joined the Marines, not because of his grades but because of his scores on their intelligence tests. Unfortunately he told them he had never smoked pot or used drugs. On his way to boot camp, they asked him again. He again said no. Their background checks confirmed different and they told him, “Son had you been honest with us, we would have been ok with it. But since you ;lied, you cannot become a Marine son, good luck.” My brother had to call my mom collect, from a city four hours away, for a ride home.
The next week he went to the Navy recruiter, told the tale, and signed up. I didn’t think he would last ten minutes in the service, with his attitude toward authority, but instead he was like a duck in water. He thrived with the structure, and the discipline, and the limits. They noticed he liked to boss people, so they put him in charge. He worked on aviation electronics and computers. He served 8 years before he left the military for a career in civil service. Because he could instantly see all the ways to hack into a computer system, he was assigned to electronic security and helped keep hackers out of some of the most important government offices in Washington DC.
He recently left the DC area and has moved to be near my mother and I. He’s looking for a job and is doing well. He never married, has no children. He desperately wants a partner, but he has always been unlucky in love. He falls had and fast and scares the ladies off, as far as I can see.
Anyway, back to the point, my mom raised my brother, but as hard as she tried she could not be both a mom and a dad to him. I would say many if not most of his life struggles are all related to not having my father. From small things like not having someone to teach him how to pee standing up, to big things like how to talk to girls, he was on his own to figure it out. It was a lot for a little guy of four, and I think it’s still a lot today.
I could tell of other examples, men I have dated who were raised by single moms and how that affected them, but maybe another time. For now I will leave it with this one tale.
If you ask me, “Can a woman raise a man?” I would say, “No.” She can do her damn best, and be a good mom, but if that boy has a father who wants to be a part of his life, she should set any feelings of her own aside and make sure her son gets regular and frequent time with his dad. If like in my brother’s case, that’s not possible, the next best thing would be to get him around his male kin: grandpas, uncles, and such. Failing that, get him into a male organization and try to find a stable and long term man to be a part of his life (maybe a neighbor or family friend, not a romantic interest of mom unless he’s going to be around for life.)
To be clear, I am not saying a single mom can not do right being a GREAT mom to her son, but she cannot be his dad too. She needs to make sure her son is around a man, as above. It’s best for her, and him, and his future.
To do any less than make sure her boy is around men, a mother will unintentionally cripple her son no matter how much she loves him or how hard she works. It’s not because she isn’t doing enough, it’s just the way it is. Boys need men. Men make boys become men. Boys who become men (chronologically) without a man in their life may continue to struggle in life into adulthood.
That’s my two cents, anyway. Take it for what it is, one firsthand account.
Let those with ears hear.
I am sorry to hear all this about your brother. Kids need both their parents.
I am reading too mauch that makes me sad. 😦
There’s no doubt they can, remember we haven’t survived 100 thousand years as a species raised by nuclear families. The family dynamic in america is changing very fast, the divorce rates are rising faster than the studies exploring how separate households affect kids. Also as a Missouri fan im sorry you’re from kansas.
Question: Does this mean you’re against homosexual marriage with children involved? I am not…I have met a number of people (both male and female) who had either gay or lesbian parents and were the same as any other person who’d had heterosexual parents. But I believe that is because their moms/dads, made sure that they had numerous opportunities to spend time with adults (kin, teachers, boy/girl scout leaders, etc) of their own sex. Unlike the idiot SJWs and feminists on Tumblr, I think most people understand that a growing child needs time around like-minded peers and adults.
Also, I think in the previous thread you mentioned some commenters read between nonexistent lines to assume I approved of or even endorsed households run only by a single parent. I wasn’t…kids need stability, and it’s close to impossible for one man or one woman to do everything on their own (though I know of at least 1 parent irl who is doing a really good job). If it is not possible to have shared custody due to death, abuse, etc, then grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends should be sought after to help.
Hi Fuzzie, it was what it was. It is sad, but I don’t tell this story to make people sad, and of course it’s anonymous so nobody will know it’s my brother specifically. I just want to share an experience and hopefully to help moms with boys see that boys need men, too!
Wilson, I am not from Kansas, my childhood babysitter was. I would agree, historically, it is likely women and children and the elderly lived together and that the boys went with the men to hunt and be warriors when they were old enough. But they most definitely had men in their lives.
Just reread and noticed “…not having someone teach him how to pee standing up…”. Is this something men usually teach their sons? I honestly don’t know if that’s how it typically is. It wasn’t in my family, and I’m curious to hear from the folks here who are parents.
Yea red, but not necessarily the father.
Also besides the point, my father is also a vietnam vet, its a war that has been forgotten
Forgotten, not likely.
It has been said that the War of 1812 is forgotten. That’s not true either.
I can see a big difference in my sons when my husband is home and compared to when he’s out for a long time. We’ve been really fortunate, and made some recent sacrifices to make sure the boys have a father around at this point in their lives.
He still has to travel, but not for months at a time. It does make a big difference. When we lived on base, it was a little different because the community is designed to support families with deployed spouses…so the kids aren’t without male influence to as great a degree and there are compensations within that community.
Off base, however, it’s a lot harder.
Fwiw, my dad did three tours in Vietnam. What a hell hole. He was a pilot, which was a lot better than being on the ground though (two of his tours he flew the F100, and the 0-2 I think? for the last…the small unarmed plane). He was shot down in the 0-2, but managed to fly the thing back to base with shrapnel in his leg and most of one of the wings off, while it was on fire. Then he crash landed. This was all before I was born or I never would have been. Liz was meant to be!
Just to add: when he crash landed, one of the wheels broke off and acted like a pivot and spun the plane around so the force of the explosion went away from the cockpit. Or he’d have been fried. Really really came close to death. I know all of this because a magazine did a big writeup at the time and it was documented (the magazine doesn’t exist anymore, it was called ‘Man’s World’). We have a copy somewhere.
At the end of the article it said my dad walked out of the plane and said, “Routine mission”. He said that was the only part of the article that was untrue. He was really dazed and in shock.
That is great, to have your husband close. Whatever sacrifices you’ve had to make I’m sure your boys will appreciate later on…if they don’t already! Kids need a stable family home and I think it’s fantastic that you and your man actively work to give it to them. Kudos.
Thanks Sophia. 🙂
Spawny Get said:
“Is this [peeing standng up] something men usually teach their sons?”
HELL NO, men are naturally gifted with those skills. Though I hear that adding a ‘fly’ glyph to a toilet bowl encourages men and boys to aim at something, this is helpful. Most issues are caused by the final flourish BTW, not the main body of the procedure.
Your brother sounds a lot like my 20 year old nephew-in-law “Jim” who always had the potential to be a handful, I think, but was very close to his dad and doing well until the mother broke up the family. Jim ran amok and ended up in a home for “troubled young men”.
We visited Jim frequently and he appeared calm enough in our presence but when we left he’d become violent. Like all of my maternal grandmother’s male descendants Jim is hard and tall (6 feet 5) and it would take a small army of men to subdue him.
My sisters and I wanted to bring him into one of our families but the mother resisted and we ended in a stalemate situation. My nephew (known here as “Cill”) spent so much time with Jim that we worried Cill’s work would suffer. We arranged for a launch to take the troubled young men to Cill’s place once a week.
The transformation, not only of Jim but of the other troubled young men, was nothing short of astonishing. Cill had those huge young guys, some more than 20 stone of meanness, playing touch rugby on the beach. Cill, who’s about the same size as Jim, broke up the fights and got them to shake hands. Bear in mind, most of these young men had never before interacted with a man.
He taught them to ride a horse and took them climbing and hunting, taught them to use lathes and tools and contruct outbuildings, and to bring the launch up the slip and maintain it and dissemble and reassemble the engine.
The House Manager says no sooner have they finished one visit to Cill than they’re already planning the next one. They’ve all put themselves on model behavior and she’s as good as out of a job! She tells me outright, no woman could have achieved such a transformation. I’ve visited Cill when they are there, and ultra-male horseplay and leg-pulling have a lot to do with the fun that goes on. I think of it as testosterone under control. They like to play “dump the guy with the ball” so of course they all pass it to Cill then pile on top of him. Any woman short of a Valerie Adams would be squashed. The ball once came to me and a young giant politely approached to extract it from my frozen grasp and throw it to someone else!
Spawny Get said:
Ezzy, I’m not at all surprised to hear that.
I didn’t think so, but wasn’t entirely sure. I know both my younger brothers simply took to it naturally after being casually told by their respective mothers that “it’s okay for boys to pee standing up”. The older one actually put down his lunch and got up from the table to go try it right away, lol. He didn’t do half bad for a 3 year old.
I, of course, had to teach myself how. I don’t indulge when toilets are available, but the ability to pee standing without making a mess or getting halfway undressed comes in very handy when camping or on day-long hiking trips in the woods, let me tell you!
Cill is awesome! 😀
“I don’t indulge when toilets are available, but the ability to pee standing without making a mess or getting halfway undressed comes in very handy when camping or on day-long hiking trips in the woods, let me tell you!”
You don’t squat? I don’t think I could pee standing without first squatting…the pee would run down my leg.
FWIW, boys are awesome when it comes to the potty training thing…I always wondered how people with girls do the public restroom thing. I even came up with scenarios on what I would do if I ever had a girl (but I never did so I never tried it out). I’d put down toilet paper first, then put their shoes on the toilet and hold them while they squat and pee. Most important that no skin touches anything in the stall. I squat on public toilets too.
Anyway, my husband actually sits on the toilet most of the time at home. Because a 6’3” man makes a huge pissy splash on the walls, floor, and bidet if he doesn’t. Think I’ve mentioned hygiene is very important to me….I’d never do in the woods, unless I was near a clean lake or the ocean, or something.
Spawny Get said:
Have no experience of this colonial poison oak thingy, but I can appreciate that not having to risk crouching on top of one when attending to one’s micturational needs would be a plus, Tarn.
Just to add, yes! Cill is awesome. Thanks for sharing that, Ezzy. 🙂
Lol, it certainly is. Easy to do as well with a bit of practice, and you don’t have to carry around/clean one of those ridiculous “Go Girl” devices. My currently-deployed brother says that a small number of female Marines actually know how to do this too, and I can imagine it helps them a great deal out in the field. Makes me wonder why it isn’t just taught to girls, even just for “emergencies”.
Ah, look at the clock…Back to work, then.
Have a pleasant day, all!
No, squatting never felt natural to me in those situations. Seems like more work, too.
It’s actually really easy. You just make an upside down V with your fingers to hold your “lips” apart, tilt your hips slightly, and go. If you bear down while going, it streams rather than splashes. No muss, no fuss. There’s no chance of being able to write your name in the snow like a guy can, but it gets the job done when you need it to.
Must be a thing with some tall guys then. My lover is 6’2″, and he sits when he’s tired or just can’t be bothered to aim. It is what it is…doesn’t make them less manly.
Okay…back to work for real now!
“You just make an upside down V with your fingers to hold your “lips” apart…”
Ack, see, I couldn’t do that except at home.
No touching the V unless hands are clean, and then no touching anything else after touching the V except after washing thoroughly. I have issues. I do have antibacterial wipes I keep with me at all times, but I don’t like to waste them needlessly. I don’t know how a Marine would do that and wash up after either.
Then again, I’ve never pooped in a public restroom either. Not once in my entire life (as far as I can recall). Toilet paper is a weird concept to me, actually. When else do you just wipe something foul off of your body with a piece of paper and then say…”good to go!” I mean, paper’s better than nothing but I’m more partial to that, plus the bidet. But I’m not weird about sperm or sweat or anything…as long as we’re clean bodied beforehand.
Anyway, more random and completely off topic musing from germy Liz (very germy, coughing all over the keyboard. Will disinfect before the kids touch it).
Fwiw, my husband has the same ‘thing’. He doesn’t touch his penis when he pees in the public restroom. We’re both germophobes. And that way I don’t have to worry if I kiss it before he showers (I mean, I wouldn’t lick his hand before he washed it so if he touches his thing with those hands I’m not getting friendly until he washes).
Okay, that was an overshare….
Hi guys, sorry I have been away and missed a lot of this. Wow, what a conversation! Lol!
I wrote this post quickly and want to add that
1. I think many single moms are doing an awesome job, goodness knows I know how hard it can be, and not all choose their position, so this post is not meant to blame/criticize/minimize them for not being “enough.” They are MOMS. And that right there is a big important job, and really, all they can be.
2. This post is not meant to imply that boys raised in single mom households are forever and ever after damaged, or even damaged at all, this is an “in general” statement, of course individual situations vary. For example, is a boy better off without a violent/abusive/alcoholic/drug abusing dad in his life? Likely. So there are obviously exceptions to the “in general.” Also, if a man who was raised in a single mother home without a male influence, reads this and finds some truth to it, or feels a zing because of it it, I want to say it is in no way his “fault” and if it has affected him that is nothing to be ashamed of and does not mean he cannot take his fate into his own hands and do his best to learn what he did not. The manosphere is a great place to start that journey. (I would say not having a father in my household has affected me in my relationships and that is what brought me to the manosphere, to “learn” more about men and how they think. And I have. A lot. And it has helped in my current romantic relationship, a lot!) Nobody has a “perfect” start, we are all always learning and growing. In fact, I have personally seen people from the absolute worst situations end up overcoming that to become some of the best parents and partners, nobody is “doomed.”
4. This post is not to imply that girls children need their opposite sex parent less, or that boy children don’t need their mothers just as much as their fathers. I believe the influence of mothers and fathers in children of both genders are equally important in different ways.
5. This post is also “in general” as far as assuming the dad is a man, the mom is a woman, as it is, *most* (as in over 99%) of the time. I have no personal experience with being a child raised in a same sex couple household, nor do I personally know any adult children of such couples, so I really cannot comment on that. I think in 20 years or so, there will be more data in that area. The effects of children being raised in a same sex household are largely yet to be seen. The latest census data shows about 1% of households are same sex couples, of those about 1 in 6 has children, so this is a very, very small small minority of all households with children and has been even more rare, at least openly, until recently.
6. It is true, girls can pee standing up! I know this because my 3-year-old did so when she was still potty training, hands free no less, and luckily outside! Maybe he dad taught her that trick? I am not sure! lol. I am also not sure if a boy just pees standing up or is taught or learns by seeing, as I have never potty trained a boy child.
7. Liz, I know you are a nurse and so I can understand the germophobia and I also know I am unlikely to talk you out of it, but if you do have to pee outside someday, even without adequate hand washing facilities, I can guarantee you will live to tell the tale! While I squat to pee outside, let’s just say I can tell you this from experience. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to face so you are peeing downhill from your shoes 😉
Since we’re saying so much about peeing, let’s talk about something besides humans. My brother’s contention is that male puppies have to see another male dog lift his leg before they get the idea. Not only does this keep their bellies dry but, they get to leave behind reminders of their passing. It’s very social!
I think between your site, and Sophia’s, Ton’s, Swithy’s and JFG I’ve doubled their hits in the past two or three days. Probably hundreds of times each. I’m going to reach some sort of critcal mass point where they boot me off the internet. “Big brother has spoken. You have exceeded your value in wifi waves”.
Too sick to do anything really productive, but not so sick that I don’t want to be entertained. I need a whambulance! I am one whiny baby, and my home is a disaster. My germophobia has kept me well for years. Not used to this. Maybe peeing outside will cure me! Wait…Maybe peeing on the dog will cure me!
Gah. Night all.
If a good night’s sleep doesn’t get it, drink lots of red soup and watch a silly aviation video.
Wonderful post. I’ll repost. My dad died when I was 8. Though I didn’t know it, I can see is effect. I never got in trouble. But I can see where I’m stunted, even though my mom married a wonderful man 4 years later. Ice also never been lucky in love. I can see where I get too into women too fast.
Reblogged this on Gratuitous Rex and commented:
A touching piece of insight on fatherhood
I’ve often quoted a piece of advice I got on the subject of dad influence, “The best thing a man can do for his children is show them how a mother should be loved.” Establishing the normal relationship interaction is big for kids growing up.
Gratuitous Rex thank you for re logging my post and for sharing your experiences, too. It is hard to explain, the effects of such a loss. This year I read a book titled “David and Goliath” about how things thought to be advantages so e times are not, while disadvantages can build strength. I found comfort in a chapter that said many people who have achieved much, including many presidents, had the early death of a parent in common. While none would choose it, we survived it, and in turn tapped inner strength we also carry with us I to adulthood, as well. Peace!
underdaddy…. that is a loaded statement. How a woman should be “loved” is often not how she wants to be “loved”.
Spawny Get said:
don’t like the ambiguity there either.
worship her on a pedestal however bad her behaviour?
hold her to adult standards and reward good behaviour with affection commensurate to her deed?
yea bro a woman on a pedestal is feral and a train wreck in the waiting
a properly managed woman is an all together different creature even when its the same woman
I agree. There are lots of ways to summarize the mad situation of today, and “woman on a pedestal” is one of them, a.k.a. the “princess” syndrome.
Hmm…this is what I get for going in chronological order and not skipping ahead. My story of being raised by a single parent is here:
The epilogue is with respect to my brothers, what little I can tell. Both boys got out of the house as quickly as possible, before the age of 18. Both married young, and raised two boys each. But in terms of role models, they both joined the Army like I did, but went for far more challenging jobs. Both served in the 82nd Airborne Division, about the highest you can go in the Army at the time without being Special Forces, Ranger, or Delta Force. Both brothers learned to be great leaders of men and have been successful in their marriages and their careers. My nephews are fine young men.