Men: How was your mom awesome during your teen years?
August 29, 2012 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Men: how was your mom awesome during your teenage years?

For all the guys out there...those of you who look back on your teenage years and have an overall impression of having had a great relationship with your mom, tell me what particular qualities contributed to this--both her individual qualities and the unique quality of your way of relating to each other. What kind of things helped you stay close through the natural process of individuation and becoming a man? (I'd like to steer clear of the negative version of this, "my mom was so awful because ....."). I know that teenage years are difficult for both genders and that many problems are universal, but I'm particularly interested in the specific issues guys have, from the perspective of being an opposite-gendered parent. I'm looking for things beyond just the obvious generalities like having respect for you as a person, ability to set limits but also negotiate things on a situation by situation basis, appropriate boundaries, privacy, trust, etc. that I consider baseline level good mom-ness.

If it matters: No significant family drama/trauma, and still happily married to his father. Things are great, just interested in doing all I can to keep it that way.

Yes, I've read it: Michael Gurian's The Mind of Boys and The Wonder of Boys; Raising Cain: protecting the emotional life of boys, Real Boys, rescuing our sons from the myths of boyhood
posted by SinAesthetic to Human Relations (19 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
She drove me to the girls house where I first had sex and stopped at the grocery store along the way, for me to buy condoms.

In short, she listened more than she spoke or advised and let me make my own mistakes, as long as it didn't involve burning myself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:40 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

I had (and still have) a pretty great relationship with my Mom, and I think one of the best things she did for me was that she trusted me, even though she knew I was doing stuff that had the possibility of getting me into pretty big trouble (hanging out with drinkers & drug users, having sex, etc). She knew I would do the right thing (not abuse drugs, use protection, etc) even in treacherous waters. Now that I have an 11-year-old daughter of my own, I am beginning to realize just what an amazing leap of faith that actually was, and I am worried that I am not going to be able to do the same thing when my daughter needs more independence, but I always have my mother's example in mind when I am making those kind of decisions.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

She never entered my room without knocking. Also no leafing through my stuff when I was away...

There was a point when she (actually both my parents) decided to stop nagging about school no matter what. That was sweet.

Generally supportive when it came to can't-get-the-girl drama (which was a bit of a theme for me, I guess), but never inquisitive.

Growing-up guy's information was made readily available on request, both in print and in conversation, but it was never pushed at me unasked or when it would have been embarrassing.
posted by Namlit at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2012

My mother actually had a really hard time with me becoming an independent person, but one thing that I did appreciate: when I was younger she was always on my case about school work, but once I hit high school she said "you're old enough to figure out for yourself whether you care about working hard in school. I can't make you care", which I appreciated. I wouldn't say my marks were off the charts awesome, but I realized I had to motivate myself and I managed that pretty well.
posted by dry white toast at 12:05 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Always asked what I wanted for dinner, didn't give me a curfew, was nice to my girlfriend, came to all my sports events, and let me keep my room in whatever shape I wanted as long as it didn't bleed into the rest of the house.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:19 PM on August 29, 2012

JohnnyGunn: "was nice to my girlfriend"

So important. My Mom was superhumanly accepting of the frankly bizarre subsection of the female species that I brought over to dinner.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

She let my brother and I skip school to go sledding on what turned out to be the last snowfall of the season. I saw that as so cool at the time, and still do.
posted by terrier319 at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hated my mom at times during high school- she'd push me to do all sorts of shit that I didn't want to do at the time. I love her for it now. You're his mom, not his bff
posted by MangyCarface at 12:53 PM on August 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

a long time ago, when i was an alienated, depressed kid in 9th grade, my mom came home from grocery shopping with a surprise gift for me. it was the double album (vinyl, yes) Live At Filmore East by Allman Bros.
I had just started playin guitar and that record totally changed my life/blew my mind. I didnt know something could sound so wild and perfect and high-temperature.
It's really remarkable that she managed to get that particular album for me cus there are so many ways for something like this to go..heh..
anyway, she turned me on to this Great Thing and that started me down a really incredible musical path. Thanks Mom!
posted by The_Auditor at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I understood that if I screwed up, my mom was going to call me out on it, deal with it, and then move on. More importantly, in situations in which I was treated unfairly by adults and had no other recourse, she always had my back. I never saw her take the easy way out to avoid standing up for what was right.

She didn't make obvious jokes about my choices of clothing, music, or friends, which must have taken Herculean will power. She set rules and expected me to live by them, but she also recognized that she'd been my parent for years, and she had already imparted a good foundation in making decent choices. She picked her battles.

She never tolerated intellectual dishonesty. She taught us to be rational thinkers, even when teenage emotions threatened to overwhelm us. She seldom said "because I said so;" she explained the reason behind her decisions, and if we were going to argue, she expected us to respond with cogent arguments.

She was proud of the things I accomplished that had value to me, not just achievements that might have reflected her interests, looked good to the other parents, or made me a model kid.

My mom didn't just talk about the character qualities she wanted to teach me, she embodied them. I never had to look any further than her for an example of courage and compassion, even under trying circumstances.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:08 PM on August 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Coming into your question from two different perspectives: my husband's mom always let her teenage boys have friends over without complaints, and either had things like soda and popcorn for everyone, or it was generally understood among the friends that it was ok to bring food and use the kitchen or wait in the boys' room while the "rest" of the gang got there. My husband and his brother and their friends always thought mom was awesome for that. Thinking about it from the mom's perspective, it gave her a chance to "be there" in a sense while her kids were growing up, and to see who their friends were, what sorts of plans they made, hear a little about girl drama, etc. Now the guys are all in their early thirties and still see my mother-in-law as a cool mom slash friend and some have invited her to their weddings and such.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:39 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband's mother was an excellent parent for him, because she let him be what he was, encouraged him to pursue what interested him, and always, always told him how loved he was.

She used to tell this story: At daycare, when my husband was 4 or 5, he was pushed into the girls' bathroom by a bunch of little girls who were bent on kissing him. And they did so. The daycare folks rescued him, but not from the taunts of the other little boys about catching cooties and getting girl germs. Daycare staff were horrified, by my MIL took it in stride. She asked her son, "What was that experience like? Was it hard for you to be teased?" And he thought about it, and smiled, and said, "Those boys don't know what they're missing." She always told that story with love.

When he wanted to read the dictionary, at the age of 8, she bought him his own copy. When he finished high school and didn't want to go to college, she helped find him an apprenticeship. When teenage him asked her to drive him to the mall... and he led her to the baby clothing section of the store... she merely said, "Is there something you need to tell me?" She then bought him the baby carrier he wanted, so he could nurse and be close to the tiny, sick kitten he had found while working in a barn. She facilitated his ability to express his emotions and never, ever lectured him or mocked his feelings. When he decided to go to college, at last, she read the papers he wrote and they discussed them; she would hear regularly from his professors, and she would relay their glowing comments to him. She respected his mind, and always let him know that by the quality and frequency of their conversations. Her discipline ran toward the lax... but she had a true buzzsaw quality, and their come-to-Jesus conversations shook him with their intensity, applied sparingly but piercingly, at just the moment that he *needed* to hear from her. Most of all, she always made it clear that she felt that they were both doing their best at being a loving mother and a loving son, even if they were making up parenthood/individuation/relationship as they went along, day by day.

This last story reaches just beyond the teen years, but says much about her tactful approach toward him and his increasing adulthood. I had been dating her son for a while before I spent the night, and started downstairs that next morning only to realize--with horror--that his mom was already in the kitchen, and that I had no way to avoid her. So I walked down the stairs, picked up a cat that had come to greet me along the way, and went to face my fate. She smiled. And offered me a cup of coffee. And sat down with me at the kitchen table to talk about current events, life at the college, and everything except the fact that I had spent the night. Years later, sitting on her bed in Hospice, we talked about that, and I asked her, "My God, what am I going to do if my son does that? How am I going to handle it?" Because we both knew she wouldn't be there to advise me. I still think about her answer: "Be glad for him that he had love and pleasure."

She let him become who he was. Encouraged his mind. Respected his interests. Caught him when he was falling. Spoke of him, and to him, with affection. Walked the floors at night, alone, when she worried about him. Was present in his life. Said the words that wed him to me, advised us gently on parenting, died holding both of our hands. She united mothering with a deep, compassionate humanity and still, still inspires me to be a better mother to my own son and daughter, as they are now and to whatever, and whoever they may become.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:39 PM on August 29, 2012 [90 favorites]

My husband's mom bought a boat when he was a teenager. It was meant to be a thing for them to do together (take it to the river and go waterskiing or whatever) and also a way to lure his dad out of the office once in a while (my FIL is a doctor who focuses on research and it's really hard even now that he's semi-retired to get him to think about anything other than work). Eventually the boat led to a cabin on a lake, to which he was encouraged to bring friends.

Not everyone can buy a boat in order to bond with their kid, much less a cabin. But there's probably some family activity that can loop in friends and relatives and create an awesome communal experience that can evolve as everyone grows up. Poker night, throwing dinner parties, taking a class together to learn a skill that neither of you has ever tried before, buying a package of tickets to a local sports team.
posted by padraigin at 7:27 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

MonkeyToes, you made me cry
posted by glasseyes at 7:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [14 favorites]

She left me alone, let me screw up and get hurt and do very ill-advised things without interference, never judged me, paid for school and travel, and advised me only as much as I asked.
posted by ead at 10:45 PM on August 29, 2012

My mom died on August 12th.

The pain is unbearable right now.

My mom taught me that it was okay to cry, so that's one thing that's been incredibly useful the last couple of weeks.

I'm trying to think about my teenage years. It's very, very difficult to do so right now. I clearly remember my mom always asking questions. She didn't do it in a nosy butt-inski way or anything like that. But she always wanted to know where I was going, what I was doing, who I was doing it with, when I'd be home; and then she'd want to know how much fun I'd had, if I'd met anyone new, if I had changed my plans.

I also remember being the only one of my friends that didn't have a curfew on weeknights. My mom always said she didn't care at all when I got home, as long as I didn't lie to her about where I was and as long as I wasn't late for school the next day. And she was always awake when I got home, but she never gave me the impression that she was "waiting up for me". Of course now -- at age 39 and two-plus weeks after she's died -- I realize that she was absolutely "waiting up for me", but I didn't know that. I truly just thought she really, really liked Johnny Carson and David Letterman.

Oh, God, this hurts so much. My heart literally is in pain.
posted by GatorDavid at 7:37 AM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

My Mum has not always found it easy to accept the directions my life took: working offshore in potentially hazardous environments, moving overseas and not seeing family for long periods of time. She also has the ability to guilt the crap out of me which can be endlessly irritating.

Thoroughout all of this though, she (and my father) loved me and supported me above and beyond the call of duty. They also love and support my wife as their own daughter too, welcoming her into their lives even though they knew it would result in their son living on another continent.
Give your love and support and you'll be the best mother ever.

MonkeyToes: damn, now I'm weeping at my desk. Going home tonight to hug my visiting parents extra hard.
posted by arcticseal at 2:03 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

So sorry, GatorDavid, for your loss. When a friend of mine lost his mother he explained it beautifully. He said, "It doesn't matter if you are 10, 20, 40, or 60 when your mom dies; it still feels like you've lost sight of her in the supermarket." It's a lost, panicy feeling that can only be experienced as you live it. I can say that remembering is hard at first, but so sweet later. My mom was not great during my teen years, she was much too involved in her own crumbling marriage and life. We always had a common interest in books and movies, though, and would stay up very late at night discussing Agatha Christie, or P.G. Wodehouse. I remember screaming at her "I don't need another fucking friend, I need a MOTHER!" at about 14. She looked shocked and said, "How weird, I never wanted a mother at your age, I wanted a friend" and walked away. I think that speaks volumes about how different we all are, and any mother doesn't quite live up to the perfect one she should be. BUT trying trying trying make it 100% better! No better, harder, more thankless job in the world. If you have a mom, call her and tell her thanks. If you are a mom, hug or call them and tell them thanks for making you one. It's the REAL toughest job you'll ever love.
posted by msleann at 6:12 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Rodrigo Lamaitre, MonkeyToes, and all made me a little sniffly! I'm very grateful to everyone who responded for sharing your thoughts and memories. It's really an incredible privilege to be allowed insight into something so intimate and personal. Thank you. Mefi FTW, as usual.
posted by SinAesthetic at 12:33 PM on August 31, 2012

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