A post at Welcome to the Nut House got me thinking. (Thanks to Dr. B. for sending folks over to the Nut House.)
The nut had this to say: "Mother's Day. There is all this great stuff for moms to do with their daughters, but nothing for moms and their sons. So I have decided to crash a tea party this year or something similar and see how it goes. It's kinda how there are matching outfits for moms and daughters, but nothing for moms and sons. It's almost as if it denies that there can be any real link between us because we are not of the same gender....or assumes that there is an ever-present father in these rapidly shrinking 'traditional families' so the son automatically wants to emulate the male gender."
I'm a married mom with a son who's almost 5. While we don't have matching outfits (and I daresay if I had a daughter, we'd be staying far, far away from the matchy-matchy thing), Ben does like to emulate me just about as much as Daddy. My boy has several purses (handy for putting Hot Wheels cars in), and he has about as much interest in makeup as I do (which is very little). He probably puts skirts on* more often than I do (which, again, is very seldom).
It's tough, though, because as the stay-at-home parent, I do get stuck with the bulk of the household work, and I don't want my son to grow up thinking that housework is women's work. As much as I'd love to delegate all the laundry to my husband, I'd much prefer that he spend his evenings and weekends interacting with Ben. At least Ben likes to be helpful and grown-up, and he enjoys helping out with household chores (except for cleaning up his toys, of course). He does an excellent job pouring the laundry detergent into the machine. So there is hope that he'll grow up knowing how to do these things and understanding that household responsibility is unisex.
Turning my attention to TV, do you watch "Arrested Development"? There's a close mother-son relationship on display there, between cold Lucille and dysfunctional Buster. Looking at the movies, there's Norman Bates and Mother. In Robert Munsch's** disturbing kids' book, Love You Forever, the mother totally invades her son's personal space while he's asleep. Enviable fictional mother-son relationships aren't coming readily to mind. Can you think of any? I want to remain close to Ben when he's grown, but I don't want it to involve matching sailor suits at the Motherboy dance (demonstrated to hilarious effect in "Arrested Development"). Where's something I can aspire to?
*The skirts are from the dress-up bin at school. My feminist credentials do not include having princess dresses and glittery shoes at home for Ben to play with. Is that a bad thing? Am I stifling him? Are princess dresses a feminist no-no for girls but a must for boys?
**Munsch's other books tend to be fantastic and funny, with a strong anti-authority streak. There's one story about a girl who colors her whole body with permanent markers. And a girl who invites all the kids from kindergarten through sixth grade to her birthday party and orders, like, 200 pizzas. A boy whose dad sleepwalks, so the boy finally devises the solution of chaining him up at night. The Amazon reviews of Munsch's books often include one by a teacher, parent, or librarian who is utterly appalled at the inappropriate messages put forth, plus a bunch more pointing out how much kids love these stories (they're smart enough to get the humor without copying the purportedly antisocial behavior). Munsch uses a lot of repetition of phrases, so his books are great for emerging readers. If you haven't seen these books and you have a kid aged 4 to 8, I encourage you to pick up a couple for your kids (and yourself).