Mothers & Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons

By Andrea O'Reilly | Go to book overview
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10

RAISING RELATIONAL BOYS

Cate DooleyandNikki Fedele

Introduction

Achilles, mightiest of the Greeks, hero of the Iliad, was nearly immortal. According to myth, his mother, Thetis, dipped him into the river Styx. The sacred waters of this river that led to Hades, the world of the dead, rendered whomever they touched impervious to harm. But Thetis, good mother that she was, worried about the dangers of the river, and so she held onto Achilles by his heal. As the story goes, because of that one holding spot, Achilles remained mortal and vulnerable to harm. Thetis would be blamed forever after for her son's so-called fatal flaw, his Achilles heel.

However, the holding place of vulnerability was not, as the myth would have us believe, a fatal liability to Achilles. It was instead the thing that kept him human and real. In fact, we consider it Thetis' finest gift to her son. Every mother of a son hopes to prepare him for life's “battles” while also preserving his emotional/relational side. Because mothers value connection, they want to “hold on, to keep open that place of vulnerability. But, faced with cultural pressures that suggest restraint and withdrawal, rather than comfort and nurture, many mothers feel conflicted about their desire to stay connected to their sons. Traditional wisdom cautions that “holding on” will be damaging and create psychological problems for sons. Faced with this dilemma, mothers often give in to cultural pressures and disconnect from their young sons because they think it is the right thing to do.

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