Friday, April 1, 2011


For over fifteen years I have noticed a prominent factor in the emotional-underdevelopment of boys in our great land: mothers. Not just any mother, but the coddle monster: “coddle” and “monster” (not to be mistaken for the endearing “cuddle monster” if one exists). Coddle monsters are mothers who have the dominant voice in the masculine development of their boys. The “coddle” portion involves a mother’s encouragement of certain childish or juvenile factors she finds endearing about her man-child. The “monster” portion refers to the incessant cajoling of her man-child to mature apart from the childish or juvenile factors she nurtures and that she cannot live without.

Now, that does not include all hardworking single-mothers, nor does it include all proud, doting mothers. Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, female teachers, and other admirably feminine models of behavior have always and will always largely inform the masculine population (else there would be no human race). However, where a father or grandfather or responsible male can be influentially involved in a boy’s life but chooses not to be is where the C.M. formula finds its most success.

Years ago I worked with a boy who was a foreign adoption. He was clever, but his parents thought him to be ignorant, and his mother specifically likened him to a “lost puppy” (that, by the way, seems to do just fine without human intervention). Not only must he learn English at the age of twelve, but he had to learn it while going to school. He came to my school for a short while where I immediately saw an uncomfortably tight bond between mother and son (actually, it was only tight from mom’s side and only tight from his side when Dad or I wanted to get involved). During lunchtime that first week of school he told me (and mimed) how he would feign ignorance and set off the burglar alarm in the house by continuously using the front door. His father would explain to him in slow English how he must NOT do that. But it happened over and over again, his father patiently explaining the same information each time because Mother was nearby, enjoying both the childish innocence and bestial stupidity of her "wittle" boy.

After being at my school for several weeks, I had to pull the young man aside because of his very vocal comments about his hatred towards his mother. Even when I confronted him he was belligerent. However, that evening I received a call from his mother who was sobbing.

“H-H-How c-c-could you-u-u say th-that to my-y-y sw-eeet boy?”

“Say what?”

“Th-Tha-at hi-is moth-the-ther d-doesn’t l-love hi-im!” Oh. So that was the game the brat was playing. I tried to explain to her that her son was making it publicly and widely known throughout the school that he hated her. I had merely pulled him aside to tell him he was not allowed to speak about his mother that way.

“HE DOESN’T HATE ME! YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND HIM LIKE I DO!” Clearly, I didn’t. What followed was a combination of Bible verses and Dobsonian logic about boys. Over ten years later what followed was drug charges and incarceration.

Now, I do not propose that I knew everything about her boy (what hubris). What I did know, however, was that he was, forgive the pun, milking her for what she was worth while despising and hating her at the same time. She did not see it that way. She saw an angel who was confused in his feelings and in his language. An angel who had to be protected from “devils” like me (and his father). 

Do boys really get hate and love mixed up? And if so, is the solution to teach them the difference by coddling them, and, thereby, affirming the behavior? I propose that Mother herself, seeing the coalition of father and Teacher as one of men against her little boy, saw an opportunity to make herself indispensable to her little boy by siding with him. However, the cost of such intervention was his absolute love and appreciation. She got her way. For a while.

Another young man I worked with years ago had issues with his mother. He hated her, too, but for different reasons. He hated her because she did not protect him from his father who fell into routine rages, physically taking it out on him. Both mother and son had a stormy relationship where days were either “amazing” or “terrible.” I had many talks with both to ascertain what the problem might be. What I concluded (much to her dismay) was that she had such a poor relationship with her husband whom she could not control that she poured overwhelming attention upon her son whom she could control. 

While she seemed open to my disciplinary suggestions, I found out from the son that she was not following my advice at all. She was actually provoking negative behavior from him. She needed her son to explode, and to follow up with a sincere apology, because his apology was the only sympathetic word she ever got from anyone in the house. By being the trigger to her son’s anger problem, she was able to keep him on a short leash, emotionally hampered, and in an open loop. He ended up going to jail for a short time. His mother was there to bail him out and to plead for him before the judge. That bond got tighter and the boy more despairing. He eventually ran away. For good.

Another mother had a son with learning “issues.” The father could not be bothered with the boy, because it was really the mother who wanted to have him and not the father (which, in my estimation, was the “issue”). The father was also an important business man who had a very extensive travel schedule. The mother explained, however, that the issues her boy had were a combination of learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mood swings. She put her son in my school to get him “caught up” with his studies which, by the way, he bombed the entire time at my school

“What about these other problems? The learning disabilities? The ADD? The anger problems?” That is one reason why boys come to my school.

“Oh, I will take are of those. You just take care of his academics. I have him on this special point system where if he has a good day, then I give him something.” I looked at her, almost with scorn. Her boy was a teenager.

“So you want him to do a good job in order to win a prize of some sort?” Oh, no, she laughed. I got her all wrong.

“You don’t understand my son. He has to be motivated in order to stay focused. I have to give him a carrot of some sort.” I cocked my head to the side and nodded slowly.

“Have you ever given him a carrot to not wet his pants?” She laughed at me.

“I heard you were funny! He doesn’t wet his pants because he doesn’t want to wet his pants.” I smiled.

“Then why can’t he do his school work because he wants to do his school work?” Now I was challenging her, and her disposition changed. So she pulled out her credentials about how she has worked in education longer than I and maybe if I was reasonable about children’s needs then I would have more students in my school. Then she criticized the textbooks I was using. Then she started crying because another mother had just come into the school building and they were having a fight. Then she talked about how she needed to go home and rest. It is no wonder her boy has been in and out of the psych ward since then.

Today I used the word “balls” twice and “gonads” once. Both “balls” references were in a conversation with two mothers, and the “gonads” reference was in a conversation with a church elder. Interestingly, both recipients of my word choice agreed that those were the right words. As I recall, the “balls” reference went something like “If he doesn’t have the balls to make that phone call, then he does not deserve sympathy.” The “gonads” reference went something like “In order to transition from talking about a product to selling it, you have to have the gonads to insist on the sell.” Both convos are rough translations, because I don’t want to divulge that I was speaking about Frederick (in regard to “balls”) and Jusef (in regard to “gonads”). 

The coddle monster likes her “wittle” boy with “wittle” balls, but she will despise the same child when she wants him to perform at a mature, competent level only to find he is unable to do so. I have to stop talking about this for now or I’m going to throw-up all over my laptop.


  1. I am becoming more and more fascinated with the male initiation rites of history as I study our current American culture which doesn't really affirm much in a young man but excessive consumption and comfort. If a man can't fend for himself and shoulder the weight of his responsibilities, how can he call himself a man?! At the end of the day though, I am currently of the opinion that the bulk of this problem is at fault with the fathers refusing to father their own sons and thereby revoking their access to manhood. I think you address an extremely important issue here, Robbie. I see this kind of brokenness almost everywhere I go. I almost wanted to vomit reading the perversion in this post.

  2. My friend, then we are the vomit brothers because this is a subject of which I am so closely familiar I dream about it. Of course, fathers are the "yin" of this "yan" problem. What I find interesting is that where a father will typically abdicate or "underperform" in relation to his boys, a mother will "overperform." I think the one is intrinsic of the other.

  3. Robbie, you could not have addressed this issue more eloquently. I just wrote several different things and then had to erase them because I get so heated on this topic. Needless to say, I vomit right along with you.:)

  4. Sarah, a late reply... but almost a year later I still agree with what I wrote!