His pudgy fingers wrap themselves around my strands of hair, hold on tightly and pull. It’s nearly impossible to pry those surprisingly strong little fingers off. It’s also nearly impossible to pry Bennett away from mama — that’s me. If I try to hand off my ten-month-old to someone else’s out-stretched arms — no matter whose, even his Dad’s — he reaches for me, arches his back and starts to cry. We’re in the separation anxiety stage, but I don’t remember it being quite like this with my daughter. Of course, my memory of that time with her is fuzzy (a three-year-old and a 10-month-old will do that to you).
It’s not the PC term, but I think it might be true: I’m raising a mama’s boy.
My son is showing streaks of toddler independence. Cruising around our coffee table, chasing our aging black lab and grabbing his sister’s toys (naturally). But I’ve never seen Bennett crawl as fast as when he’s upset and needs his mama. The wailing alone has caused my daughter to cover her ears. I have a confession: I want to cover my ears at times too, and I even occasionally long to run and hide in the bathroom. Raising a mama’s boy is exhausting. Like literally physically exhausting. My left bicep started hurting last week from carrying him around so much (I’m right handed and carry him on the left because there are some days I would get nothing done otherwise). To compensate for my sore arm I shifted how I carry him; now my back hurts.
Sometimes moms can’t win. I feel slightly guilty saying my sweet son with his gap-toothed grin and raspy laugh is wearing me out. But it’s true.
My husband does everything he can to help, but his work schedule is tricky and he can’t always be on hand. I’ve written about that here. One of my stay-at-home mom joys was going to Jazzercise classes. I had to take a hiatus because I could hear Bennett wailing in the childcare room. His cries could be heard over the thumping dance music that was cranked all the way up. That’s when I decided it was time to enlist the help of babysitters again. That strategy worked with my daughter around that age and I still have high hopes it will work on Bennett. Yes, he’ll cry when I leave, but my sitters report he stops shortly after I walk out the door. I once witnessed him reach for one of our babysitters; that’s when I knew I had a good thing going. I can’t say I remember him doing that for anyone else besides me, including my husband.
I’ve read lots (probably too much) about this topic. One of the parenting websites suggested boys seem to have more of a need for their mothers than girls. No joke. I’ve asked everyone I know with a son and a daughter if they believe that to be true. My unscientific research found they agree with that statement, but they also said it happens often with a second child. Or with a breastfed baby (which he is). Or if he’s teething (seemingly always). You see where I’m going here.
But is raising a mama’s boy really all that bad?
According to a 2010 study from the University of Reading, the answer is “no, it’s not a bad thing.” In fact, it’s a really, really good thing. Researchers found kids, especially boys, who have secure attachments to their moms tend to have fewer behavioral problems. They’re more adaptable and patient. They also tend to become strong, independent leaders. The findings put the popular culture notion of a mama’s boy as a coddled, overly sensitive person to shame.
I know Bennett’s strong and urgent need for mommy probably won’t last forever. There may even be a time when I miss this stage (hello, high school years). Recently, a friend with a teenage son and daughter watched as Bennett broke into tears when I put him down to tie my shoelaces. She remarked, “You’ve got your hands full!” Hearing her words gave me peace. Her smile revealed she knew because she’d been there too. Yes, my hands may be full, but so is my heart.