My baby boy is eight already.
He is the most loving, amazing, fun, crazy and adorable person I know – and I literally cannot get enough of him. And the best bit? The feeling is completely mutual. My little boy thinks that I am the best thing in the world. As in – he wants to talk to me all they long, he will sit on my lap and twirl my hair as he watches TV and if given half a chance, he would rather sleep every single night snuggled right up to me, as close as he can get, with his clammy little hand twirled tight into my hair.
It’s a kind of love I have never known before.
Because while I have a daughter too, and she loves me a lot – and I worship the ground she walks on – her obsession with me doesn’t quite reach the levels of her brother’s. And I soak it all in – knowing there will no doubt come a day when their obsession will fade a little, and I’ll miss these days with my whole heart.
The thing is, when it comes to boys and their mums, research actually shows that boys who have a close relationship with their mums – and maintain this – have healthier lives, both physically and psychologically.
For instance, a study of more than 400 tween schoolboys in the US revealed that sons who were close to their mothers not only remained more emotionally open, forming stronger friendships, but were also less depressed and anxious than their more macho classmates. And they were getting better grades, too.
Yup, that’s right mama – keep on snuggling your babies.
And it doesn’t end there. Researchers have also found evidence that a strong mother-son bond prevents delinquency in adolescence. Studies show that it is a boy’s mother who is the most influential when it comes to risky behaviour, not only with alcohol and drugs but also in preventing both early and unprotected sex.
And there are good reasons a positive influence from mum is important to boys.
Recently, the American Psychological Study released its first guidelines for clinicians treating boys and men. The APA found that traditional masculinity “marked by stoicism, competitiveness, domination and aggression” is harmful to guys. The harder boys and men cling to these norms, the less likely they are to seek help for their emotional or physical problems, and the more likely they are to engage in heavy drinking, smoking and other risky activities. These men also tend to be lonely and disdainful of others.
The scary stats have been there for a while. Boys falling behind girls in academic achievement, suffering from more mental illness, succumbing to drug abuse, and getting into more trouble.
So what can we learn? The reason should we keep our boys extra close.
Well, experts believe mothers can play a critical role in helping boys emotionally cope with today’s world. And not that I think any of us need an excuse to keep snuggling our boys, but if you are feeling a little strung out today, mama, if you have been needed a lot, haven’t had a moment to yourself, feel touched out, talked out, worn out – know this: All that love you are pouring into your little boy, it is literally changing his life.