Holding takeaway trays filled with spicy leftovers from the community iftar, I laughed watching my two youngest flying up the masjid steps and giggling as they ran across the parking lot. I followed them into the warm spring night. Words of gratitude to Allah (S) for a Ramadan evening filled with good friends and food floated in my head.
We got into the car and talked about school options as I looked in the rearview mirror and tried to decide the best way to back out of the packed parking lot. I sighed and put the car in gear, squinting into the night and hoping the lone parking lot light would offer enough light to navigate between the cars flanking the driveway.
It wasn’t. My heart raced at the muffled grounding sounding filtering through the closed window. I put the car in park and slammed my eyes shut before getting out and walking around my black SUV to assess the damage.
I saw a man come from around the front of the masjid and approach me. He offered to help. I knew my eldest son was still in the masjid, so I told the man his name and asked if he knew my son. He confirmed he did and disappeared back the way he came. The girls hopped out of the car. I leaned against it and waited for my son, sure he would handle things for me.
My son appeared, his thobe stretching around his long legs as he strode to me with his usual confidence. He smiled and hugged me, consoling me and telling me he would take care of everything. After soothing me, he turned to the man who got him from the masjid and spoke with him about finding the owner of the car I hit and the next steps we needed to take.
I watched him manage the situation with efficiency, recognizing that the current situation was another example of how our relationship as mother and son transformed as he became an adult.
As our children grow, our relationships with them change. In a previous article
, I talked about ways my relationship with my oldest daughter transitioned as she became a woman. Similarly, the mother-son relationship with my adult sons underwent some unique transitions stemming from their new roles as husbands (my eldest is married) and Muslim men in the community.
As their sons transition into adulthood, mothers need to appreciate their new positions in Muslim communities, society and their own family, and how entering manhood shifts a mother’s position in the relationship with her son. We will also want to consider how we can bond with them in new ways that fit their more mature personality.
1. Recognize the shift In some mother-son roles.
Layla and her eldest son.
The above story illustrates a shift in the roles between my son and me. As Muslim sons become Muslim men, they may recognize and accept their responsibilities as protectors and maintainers of the women in their lives, including their mothers.
Allah (S) says in the Quran:
Men are the caretakers of women, as men have been provisioned by Allah over women and tasked with supporting them financially.
[Surah An-Nisa; 4:34]
Mothers may have difficulty appreciating that their little boys now have a mandate from their Creator as men, but as their sons transition into manhood, they will ideally take their responsibility seriously. A mother may find her son more protective, looking out for her physical and emotional well-being in the same ways she used to for him. He may ask where she’s going and express any issues he may have with it.
It may feel strange, but it is vital to respect him if he wants to fulfill his new role as your protector. Yes, you’re still his mother and have rights over him, but as a grown son, it’s important to recognize his maturity and care for you.
2. Make peace with less communication.
Some mothers may experience a drop in open communication as their sons become teenagers. Adult sons may have even less familial contact, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Many parents want to maintain consistent contact with their children, but that may be challenging once they are adults and move away from home. Even if you live close by or in a joint family situation, connecting with an adult child who is busy with work and other responsibilities can be challenging.
Your adult son may have a lot on his plate. Try not to interpret any lapse in communication with him as not loving or missing you. Do not make the mistake of guilt-tripping him to call or text more. Respect his space.
When my oldest son moved out, I knew I would see and talk to him less, but that didn’t mean I wanted no contact. We talked about the importance of keeping in contact to the best of our abilities. I don’t reach out to him every day, but if a more extended period of time passes, I will give him a text or call to catch up. He agreed to be mindful not to let too much time pass, but I keep in mind that sometimes he may not be able to call or text for a while.
Try to understand that your adult son(s) won’t be able to call every day. When he does contact you, don’t expect too much conversation, and you may find that a lot of answers to your questions will be “yes,” “no,” and “fine.” That’s okay. On some occasions, your son may decide to share more of their life specifics with you or ask for your guidance. When your son opens up, think about productive ways to give him advice. Keep any differences in your deen or worldviews in mind and respect them. Share your wisdom without being critical or lecturing, always remembering the uniqueness of your son and the special bond you share.
3. Know that he still needs you.
Layla and her middle son.
Many mothers provide their children with comfort and security from birth. The loving warmth provided by ummi continues to be needed by adult men. Nobody can replace the caring mother who raised them. The Prophet (saw) said that mothers have three times the right
to their children’s companionship than anyone else. Dedicated sons want to be dutiful to their mothers and may still seek comfort and affection from her.
Although he may be a big, strong man taking on the world, your son may want to still cuddle with you once in a while. My oldest son is married, and he and his wife care for each other. But he will come by the house just to get a hug from me and some comfort food. You might be surprised that your grown son holds a lot of sentimentality for his childhood home and his mother. The solace and love a mother can provide can be a blessing for an adult man when life gets rough.
You may want to be there for your son, but remember to honor your individual needs by establishing the best ways to connect with him. If you don’t mind your son popping in for a visit, that’s great, but if you have a busy schedule, then it is best to let him know to check with you before stopping by. Established boundaries for adult children can make those visits more enjoyable.
4. Love who he loves.
In an article about being a good mother-in-law
, I mentioned the importance of accepting that when an adult son marries, he has a new person in his life to love – but so do you. With my daughter-in-law, I made it a point to make her feel loved and welcomed by me. I got to fall in love with her and strengthen the bond I had with my son. I loved who he loved, and he appreciated me more for my acceptance of the woman he loved.
Building a positive relationship with your son’s spouse can fortify the love you have for him. His feelings for you may grow as he sees you and his wife working on forming a bond
of respect and love, which will take time and effort. Having a functional relationship with your DIL will also extend to any children she and your son have, making the familial ties difficult to unravel.
To this day, I still love my mother-in-law. Even after my divorce, we have formed a relationship that is still intact.
Bonus: Building new bonds
Mother-son connections remain an essential part of each of their lives. Adulthood doesn’t change that, but it may require adjustments in how a mother and son bond. A mother will want to do the same things I mentioned in an article
about adult daughters, including:
- Build a foundation of positive feelings.
- Respect them as individual adults.
- Appreciate his individual personality; and
- Accepting lifestyle differences.
With an adult son, you may also want to think of ways to keep the bond strong by engaging in activities outside your comfort zone but well within his. He may not be interested in a pottery class you love (if he is, great), so talk to him about things you can do together. My second oldest son and I love museums and parks, so we often go together. The thing is to find something each of you can enjoy.
Adulthood doesn’t weaken the love and connection between a mother and son. Be proud of the man you raised and enjoy the new ways he is a coolness to your eye.