He writes sweet notes and leaves them on my pillow. He brushes my hair to relax me at the end of a long day. He decided to try to secretly learn French and surprise me.
No disrespect to my wonderful husband, but when it comes to the language of love, my 7-year-old son is an expert. And I’m determined to keep it that way.
Now, before you start imagining some unhealthy mother-son dynamic that paints me as the world’s creepiest future mother-in-law, let me be clear: I’m not trying to raise a perpetual “mama’s boy”; I’m trying to raise a man who will support, cherish, and romance the heck out of his future partner. Whatever else his eventual spouse (if he has one) may think of me, I want them to acknowledge that I raised a terrific husband. And regardless of marital status or sexuality, these qualities matter for other relationships as well.
My son has a gentle, affectionate, and deeply loving soul. Sometimes it is hidden underneath a lot of dirt, wild energy, and a maddening tendency to kick and pinch his sisters, but it’s always there. I feel it’s my job as his mom to help encourage that softer side of him to rise to the surface and to make sure he knows that sensitivity, occasional vulnerability, and displays of affection are not signs of weakness. In fact, they are key to developing and maintaining strong relationships, both romantic and otherwise.
In my own marriage, it’s the spontaneous, from-the-heart gestures from my husband that mean the most to me. It can be as simple as leaving an “I love you” Post-It near my car key on a random Tuesday morning, or bringing me a bag of my favorite candy after a quick errand to the drugstore. And don’t even get me started on spontaneous laundry folding! That kind of romance can be learned over time (perhaps with some not-so-subtle encouragement from one’s partner), but for people like my son, the tendency seems to come naturally. That, to me, is one of his best qualities.
If my son does well in school and is successful at his future job, of course I will be proud. But I’ll be prouder if he grows up to be a great husband and, by extension, a great dad. I truly believe those last two things are linked. I have rarely seen a strong marriage that didn’t translate into pretty solid parenting. After all, the partnership between parents is the foundation the entire family is built on; when there are cracks, the whole thing becomes less stable.
My son is years away from putting his romantic relationship skills to the test. For now, I heap on the praise for his random acts of love, and I try to encourage him to talk about his feelings by being open about my own. He is still at an age when I’m the closest thing he has to a “sweetheart,” so this is my chance to help smooth the path for those who will come after me.
As they grow up, home is the safe space for our kids to try out different behaviors, test relationship boundaries, and truly be themselves without fear of rejection. I am more than happy to be the recipient of love notes, snuggles, and mis-pronounced French endearments before my son is ready to road-test those gestures with some other lucky gal or guy. For my part, I’m doing my best to guide him toward success in life and love, and to raise the kind of husband I want to see in the world.