PAM LARCADA and her 10-year-old son, Albert, share a passion:
baseball. He pitches a mean fastball; she warms him up before
games. Two years ago, Albert gave his mother a catcher's mitt for
"We're very close," says Larcada, a Kendall, Fla.,
pediatrician. "We like to talk about a lot of things and do things
together. He's very affectionate, very emotional."
Larcada believes her relationship with Albert is fairly
typical. All little boys adore their mothers, don't they? "A
mother," Larcada says with a laugh, "is the first woman a boy
The complexities of the mother-and-son relationship have
inspired a spate of recent books. They seek to analyze the changing
image and role of men in society - and how these things are shaped
by this most basic of human ties.
The authors, most of them mothers themselves, attack the
long-held belief that a mom must push a boy away for him to be able
to reach his full masculine maturity.
In fact, these authors contend, mothers often report strong,
healthy ties to adolescent and adult sons, even as they complain
about society's pressure to pull them apart.
"A boy often finds a mother in his corner," says Connecticut
psychologist Ann F. Caron, author of "Strong Mothers, Strong Sons"
(Henry Holt, $22.50). "Mother is usually the mediator, and he knows
that. He sees her as a protector. While adolescent girls tend to be
critical of their mothers, the adolescent boy is very protective of
But as boys reach puberty, the mother-son mutual adoration
transforms into a more silent wariness. Mothers say that the
closeness is disrupted as much by the bodily changes of adolescence
as societal pressure to distance son from mother.
Consciousness about behaving "like a boy" heightens during
those years in a process psychologists call gender intensification,
and mother and son are flooded with both subtle and overt messages
of the dangers of not being masculine enough, of becoming a "mama's
"The pressure to not make him a sissy is enormous," says Linda
Rennie Forcey, a professor of human development at Binghamton
University in New York and author of "Mothers of Sons: Toward an
Understanding of Responsibility" (Praeger, $10.95 paperback). "What
is held as cultural truth is that the woman must push the boy out
of the nest. It is clear at adolescence, but it starts as early as
Much of the pressure comes from Dad. Yvonne Whitehead, a
finance specialist for the city of Sunrise, Fla., says her husband,
Benjamin, is always telling her she's being overprotective of their
12-year-old son, Spencer. She doesn't want him walking home alone;
he thinks it's a good idea. She won't let Spencer mow the lawn when
it's too hot; Benjamin says, "He's not going to melt!"
"My husband wants to toughen him up, make him what he would
consider a man," she says. "I know I can't protect him from
everything, but he's only 12. …