Thursday, December 22, 2005

What a Mother Means to a Son: the Tender One

Fathers must teach their boys much. Their love must be strong, for example, yet not without tenderness. Though they must exhibit this quality, it is from his mother that a boy must learn gentleness and tenderness. Without such lessons, he will not fulfill well his calling to love his future wife. He will grow up and be strong and responsible, but he will lack the gentle love that a woman must have in a relationship. Contrary to what action films and Hollywood stars teach us, men must be both strong and tender, both courageous and compassionate. How fascinating that the relationship between man and woman brings this out in men. Were the planet to consist simply of men, men probably wouldn’t express much gentleness. With women in the mix, though, we can’t run around like the brash and blunt creatures we really are. We have to develop emotionally, learn to care for others, and live tenderly and kindly. How good of our Creator to push us men out of our insensitive state-of-nature.

Yet though fathers must live tenderly, it will be the mother’s primary responsibility to teach her son to be tender. She does so by nurturing and caring for him from his earliest days. Observe women—even girls—around babies and one can see that females are hard-wired to love with tenderness. Men like to man-handle their sons, to throw them in the air and catch them, to wrestle with them. In all this, they show their strength and assure their boys of both their ability to protect and their ability to rough-house without hurt. Mothers don’t quite show tenderness in this way, do they? Mothers show tenderness by cooing at their boys and fussing over them. As the boy grows, it’s Mom, not Dad, that he seeks when he scrapes his knee. Mom has a special gentleness that alone can soothe the wounded. When he’s picked on at school, it’s Mom’s tender questions that result in his confession of hurt. After he wounds his sibling’s feelings, it’s Mom who will do much of the work of restoring. Dad forgives him, and that’s essential, but he needs the touch of redemption in his brokenness. He finds that in Mom’s tender hug and her reassuring words.

One can see the fruit of tender motherhood in young men. Boys who have had gentle and kind mothers are in no way effeminate or soft, but they are often quick to care. They are the type who ask fellow men how they are and who feel comfortable offering solace and comfort to a hurting brother. In addition, they are the type who least often will hurt a girl by way of insensitivity. They have learned from the hand of gentleness to be gentle. So they are. When with their children, they do not simply correct or direct, but do so with compassion and love. All this is due to Mother’s gentleness, her tenderness, qualities which are embedded in her emotional fabric. Providence has made Mom to be tender, to show her son tenderness, and to give God much glory through the simple teaching of an essential trait.