the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Mama’s Boy

My mother was in her yoga class in Boca Raton last week, doing one of her chair exercise, when another woman accidentally moved the chair that my mother was leaning against for support.  My mother fell back, hit the floor, and when she stood up, the teacher noticed blood.  The paramedics quickly came and she received three stitches in the back of her head.   She’s OK now, or “Perfectly fine,” as she always says, and already back in the exercise class.

I was anxious that day, naturally worried about her.

I read this article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Who Are You Calling a Mama’s Boy?”   The writer, a mother of a son,  poses the thought, “A strong mother-son bond is crucial, but heaven help the mom who admits being emotionally close to her son.”

So much of who we are comes from our parents.

Have you noticed that I rarely write about sports?  My father never watched any sporting events. We never watched a baseball game together or played any games.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t do things with him, but they were always cultural events, like the theater or concerts.   He always treated me as a little adult.   Because of that, I never clicked with him in the emotional way as I did with my mother.   I played board games with my mother.   I wrote silly stories for her to read.   I did magic and puppet shows for her.   As an only child, I turned to my mother for companionship.

As a teenage boy, my relationship shifted.  All of a sudden, I didn’t want to be seen with my mother.   How “gay!”

Nowadays, I laugh when I read my mom blogging friends complain about how their adorable little boys — now teenagers — don’t want to be hugged anymore!   Of course they don’t.   I still remember the horror of being in the supermarket WITH YOUR MOTHER, and being SEEN doing it!

Over the last year, I lived with my mother in Queens.  I found the whole experience somewhat embarrassing, even if the reason was related to my separation.   What type of adult man should not be living with his mother?  I joked about it online, but it did hurt my self-esteem.   But it was a positive experience.  I experienced a relationship with my mother as if we were roommates — as two adults.

Well, not all the time.

“Wear a hat!” she would yell at me as I left the house in December, in the exact same tone as when I was in third grade.

But we found common interests, and discovered that we could even watch an R-rated movie together without needing therapy.

I would not feel so comfortable with my father.

I do have some qualities of a “mama’s boy.”   At the same time, I don’t, thanks to my mother herself.    She never hovered over me, and even went back to work when I started school.  I was never her entire life.

I still think about my father, who passed away in 2005, a few months after I started my blog.   I’m still unsure how to process his death, and what it means to me. It is odd to have someone just disappear from your life — forever.

All these emotions are flying through my nerves, because talking about my parents is talking about myself.   And there is no more difficult subject to write about than yourself.


  1. Sarah Piazza

    If by “mama’s boy” we mean “boy who treats his mother with love and respect,” then all boys ought to be mama’s boys. I hate the term “mama’s boy,” because it implies that caring deeply for the person who brought you into this world is somehow unmanly. Ugh.

    You’re a good son, Neil.

  2. erykah

    I dated several mamas boys in the past. You made a healthy distinction – you were never her entire life-she went on to do other things. I think I could write several blogs of the nightmare some moms can be when dating their sons.

    • Ca

      Hehehe…definitely a nightmare when a mother dates her son

  3. kenju

    Sarah is right on all counts. My son is now 46 and we don’t get to see each other more than once a month or so, but he is loving and respectful and he calls me at least twice a week. He is a good husband and a great father, and I take some credit for that. I think he appreciates how we brought him up – and yes, when he was about 12 to about 30 – he didn’t want to be sen with me! I understood it, since I was the same way with my mother at a young age.

  4. Heather

    Your Momma raised her a good son… and isn’t that the one thing we all truly want?

    You’re a good egg, Neil.

  5. angel dalllu

    Its so easy to talk about others life and assume that what will b their life..
    When its comes on ourself we feel most horrible to think cz our life begans with family n ends with them. Familys play a very auspicious role in our life n their background make our life more easier.
    I m still papa girls n I yelled at him whenever I feel like he’s not rite but today who I m whtat I m going to b he’s d one he’s the person who identification n his relfection gone b with me..

  6. Danny

    You’re a mama’s boy ONLY in the most positive, loving sense. I agree that it’s only “bad” when the mother is trying to control her son and runs roughshod over his relationships in the process. That’s certainly not you and your mom. I wish I still had the opportunity to be a mama’s boy!

    • Neil

      Maybe I see mama’s boy differently than others. You tend to see it as an overbearing mother who is controlling, like a Gypsy Rose Lee. My mother is nothing like that at all. She is so far the opposite it’s not funny. I was seeing it more as too much nurchuring. Like you shouldn’t go to mom for support but go out there like a man and fight those bullies.

  7. Jana A (@jana0926)

    I love this look at the relationship between a mother and son. When I was pregnant with my first son (who died later), I wept as the ultrasound tech told me it was a boy. She asked what was wrong and I answered that I didn’t know what to do with a son. She calmly put her hand on my knee and looked at me and said, “You don’t have to know what to do with a little boy. Little boys love their mamas. And mamas love their little boys.” And it’s so true. That relationship is just so special.

  8. Kathryn (@kat1124)

    Beautiful post, Neil. I have a small boy (6) and a grown one who’s a father now himself (25). As a young single mom with my oldest, I didn’t have as much time or patience as I have with my youngest. I wish I hadn’t scolded my oldest when he used to climb into bed with me in the middle of the night, I could make quite a list of the things I wish I’d done differently or “better” with my oldest. But it doesn’t seem to matter because we are close, he lives on his own but he visits often, calls me to have lunch when he’s downtown, we share a love of books and music and sarcasm and humor. He is strong but he also goes to a therapist to deal with issues from his dad’s suicide last year, and I’m proud that he doesn’t think he should have to handle everything by himself. I wouldn’t call him a mama’s boy because he’s very independent but then again, I think he kind of is since he always seeks my opinion about things that are important to him, and never hesitates to tell me he loves me.

    My youngest is a total “mama’s boy”, who can’t get through a night without crawling into bed with mom and dad, constantly checks himself against “What’s mom doing?” and is just totally enamored with me. Thank goodness my husband isn’t one of those “man up” guys, because I’d have to divorce him. Sons need to be emotionally attached to their mothers, not to an unhealthy degree but I don’t believe there is a point where we should stop nurturing our boys. I believe it’s my job to raise boys who are emotionally available, kind, respectful, and strong. How else would a mother do that but by keeping her sons close while they’re growing?

    As I write this I realize how privileged I am to be mother to my boys. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post, Neil.

  9. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    I have a much easier relationship with my kids than I ever had with my parents. My parents were always My Parents, not my confidants, not my friends, not people I felt I shared a lot of interests with. We loved one another, we were family, we shared a life, but not a lot beyond that.

    I have a son and a daughter. We talk and joke about things I *never* would have discussed with my parents. My daughter and I bond (and clash) in one way, my son and I bond (and clash) in other ways. I don’t consider myself closer to one over the other. I feel I’m close to both of them. That said, based on their personalities and relationships, I expect my son to be around a lot more than his sister when he’s an adult. I think “coming home” will always mean something to him, and my daughter will stay in touch but be absorbed in a bajillion things and I’ll seldom see her. Who knows what will actually happen? I have enjoyed being a mom at all stages, and I like having teenagers just as I liked having preschoolers, then elementary kids and onward. The relationship is always evolving and maturing. I will miss them when they leave the nest over the coming years, but I suspect the adult years will be fulfilling too.

  10. Yvonne

    One of your best posts Neil, I really enjoyed reading it. Love to your mum!

  11. Quadelle

    Like Jana I was flummoxed about how to parent a little boy, but, “Little boys love their mamas. And mamas love their little boys,” has certainly been my experience. Completely and utterly. I hope one day that if he ends up spending time living with us as an adult that it will be as easy and enjoyable to be around each other then as it is now.

    Which sounds pretty much like what you have with your mom, and that is awesome.

  12. Irish Gumbo

    I understand your questioning of the dynamics, but it seems to me you have the balance right. That is the sweet spot. (tips hat). Kudos to the Good Son (and glad you mother is fine!)

  13. Megan

    I wish there were more “mama’s boys” out there. They are the ones who seem to genuinely like and respect women.

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