This will be the first of several posts on this topic spread out over time, for it’s a subject about which I know much. It’s about the impact of a boy being raised by a single mom. In my archives somewhere I’ve got the beginnings of a monster post on the subject, but I’ve determined that smaller doses might get my points across better.
I don’t need to cite the statistics because they’re everywhere, but our prisons and gangs are filled with men who’ve had no fatherly influence growing up. They’ve never learned to hone their masculine instincts in an appropriate way (or have had their masculine aggression feminized, but that’s for another post), and they wreak havoc on the rest of us. These are the Barbarians.
Yet not all boys raised by single moms commit rape or wind up in prison. Instead of allowing their aggression to run wild, some males sublimate it. They’re out of balance in the opposite direction. These are the Wimps. They don’t make the news as much because quietly wasting away doesn’t make for juicy news stories.
At some point, something determines which of these boys will become Wimps, and which will grow into Barbarians. The factors that determine which route he will take depends on a variety of factors: the personal traits of the boy (high or low testosterone, personality), the mother (guilt trips, competence as a mother, promiscuity or lack thereof), socioeconomic conditions, the age of the boy when the father departed, the way the father departed, siblings, the nature of the relationship with the father, community support, religious education, substitute male role models, and more.
This post doesn’t explore why one boy will choose Barbarian and the other will go Wimp, it merely describes the nature of that choice.
We know of the feminine instinct to shit-test, to make a demand on a male to determine his fitness or lack thereof. Some would argue that shit-tests apply only to prospective mates, I would disagree. Instincts don’t shut on and off according to circumstance.
Regardless, males have an instinct as well: to resist shit-tests. It might get banged out of us at some point, but it’s undeniably there. If a superior male makes us do something, we might not like it, but we can handle it. Dad telling us to “Cut it out!” instinctively strikes us as the manifestation of some sort of hierarchy to which we’re supposed to conform.
With a mother, not so much. It’s never particularly easy to get a stubborn five year-old to do something he DOES NOT want to do, but it’s doubly hard for a mother, especially when she’s not the father’s chief lieutenant, but is herself the general.
One booming “DO IT!” from a Dad would get him to act, but often a mom has to resort to nagging, pleading, shrieking, cajoling, appealing to guilt, threatening, and running herself ragged just to get her son to do the simplest little thing.
This is because, even for a little kid, his pride is at stake. Somehow, some way, he knows that he’s NOT supposed to let women boss him around. Losing to a male is part of life, but losing to a woman cuts you down. Somewhere in that wiry little body of his he wants to be an Alpha male and he knows what it takes to become one. Letting chicks tell you what to do isn’t it.
Unfortunately, if she’s the head of the household, it’s her job to get through his thick little skull from time to time. Blame society, hypergamy, divorce laws or whatever else for the mess she’s in, she’s in a mess and has to do something about it. Even the most mediocre single mom knows more about life than a six year-old, and he will have to learn to clean his room, eat vegetables every once in a while, and brush his teeth before they rot away from too many Coco Puffs.
But into the mix we do have to throw the occasional shit-test. Even the best mother will have her moments of absurd and hormone-driven drama. “You didn’t kiss me goodnight! You must not love me! And after all I’ve done for you!”
So we have an irreconcilable (?) conflict. In one corner, we have a mother who needs to raise her son and objectively knows more about life than the son, but also some tendencies that are going to strike the son as utterly nonsensical. In the other corner, we have a boy who needs guidance to make his way in the world, but who has a budding Alpha instinct that’s going to fight this broad with everything he’s got.
Typically, this conflict will end in one of two ways:
1. The son wins. Maybe the mom simply gave up, maybe the boy is especially hyperactive, maybe the mom just plain sucks. In any case, the boy fundamentally rejects the authority of his mother. She can’t make him, so he doesn’t do it. His mother undoubtedly tried to steer him in the right direction (mixed in with at least a few shit-tests), but the boy interprets his mother’s authority as a giant shit-test. So he passes it.
However, if subconsciously he’s equated mother with authority, if mother telling him what to do is a shit-test, it follows that he would grow to see all authority as a shit-test. He’ll tell off cops, flick off his teachers, and see most any attempt to control him as an assault on his masculinity. He might voluntarily submit to some sort of authority like a gang leader, but he’s still fundamentally told society and its rules to go to hell. Sometimes society should be told to go to hell (Bloomberg’s soda ban), but sometimes it shouldn’t (don’t mug old ladies). He can’t tell the difference. They’re all trying to dis him, to keep him down, to insult his manhood.
Hence, the Barbarian.
2. The mother wins. In this case, he interprets his mother’s guidance/shit-test mixture as quality guidance. He’s given up his budding Alpha urge to resist his mother and determined to do the right thing. He subconsciously associates his mother’s love and (genuine) concern for his well-being with authority and becomes inclined to submit. He fails his mother’s shit-tests by doing what she wants, and grows up to respect the shit-test requests of other women with the same deference he treated his mother’s request for him to not pee on the toilet seat. It pains his mother when he defies her, so he grows to respect Woman and to do what She asks him to do. He’s submissive and respects women just a little too much. He might not want to be anything like his father.
And we know what happens to guys who respect women just a little too much.
This boy becomes the Wimp.
I have theories as to why one boy will become a Wimp and another a Barbarian (and much thanks to Looking Glass for sending me an email with some great insights I’ll be exploring shortly), but if any of you have any ideas of your own, please either leave a comment or send me an email (address in “view full profile” under the hammer pic). I want to understand this phenomenon as well as possible, and I have some brilliant readers who I’m sure could help me do it.
Obviously, the best way to avoid these problems is for each and every boy (and girl, but that’s not my area of expertise) to have a healthy fatherly influence in the home. However, even in the best of societies, sometimes single moms happen, and sometimes those single moms ended up that way through little fault of their own (widowhood). Sometimes Dad simply bails.
Whether they be “bastard spawn” or the genuine victims of abuse, these kids have some serious strikes against them. I’m aware of the odds, but I also believe in free will and that nothing is pre-ordained. The best advice for any mother in this regard is “don’t be a single mom”, but if that die is cast, the ultimate fate of her sons need not be.
Yet I’ve shown that in the inherent conflict of their relationship that either side “winning” is ultimately a loss. Nevertheless, I know that there are ways to mitigate the damage. So if you have any ideas, fire away.