Much is made of the importance of parental connections – especially those between father and son, father and daughter, mother and daughter. These bonds strengthen families – even single-parent ones – and thereby the community. Not as much is said, however, about the connection between mother and son.
The upcoming fourth annual Mother-Son Gala, set to take place October 28, is looking to widen the conversation with an evening dedicated to this parent-child dynamic. “It’s so important,” said Terry L. Austin, executive director at Positive Image, which sponsors the evening.
“We have so many mothers that are working, going to school, trying to get that degree. And they’re doing it alone. So, I wanted to take some time out to recognize those moms, to give them a salute,” Austin said.
Indeed, the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau notes that a disproportionate number of Black children under 18 live in single-parent homes, usually with the mom. Over time, this disproportionate number has become a norm in community after community.
From 1960 through 2016, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from eight to 23 percent, and the percentage of children living with only their fathers increased from one to four percent.
“There is evidence supporting the positive influence of mother engagement on children’s social, behavioral and psychological outcomes,” Austin said in press materials. “Mother involvement seems to reduce the occurrence of behavioral problems in boys and psychological problems in young men, as well as enhancing cognitive development while decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.“
Needless to say, that involvement also greatly benefits young men who are not disadvantaged.
“There are some great moms in our community, doing great things – and some awesome boys, as well, who are doing well in school, academically as well as in sports.” The event, he added, is “also [for] sons that are older and have their own kids [who] want to show their mom some appreciation.”
The formal festivities for boys and young men five years of age and up include, Austin noted, “a nice dinner, words of encouragement from local leaders, and a fun-filled night of dancing and interconnectedness teaching their sons what it feels like to be treated with love and respect.”
Along with acknowledging these mothers, Austin looks to empower them. “They can network with other moms, maybe for employment, or just [socialize],” he told the MSR.
The Mother-Son Gala was inspired by Positive Images’ already successful Father-Daughter Dance, which is designed to engage “fathers from all walks of life,” Austin shared in a previous MSR interview.
“A group of moms came to me and wanted to do something because we had such a good time,” explained Austin. “They wanted to have something they could celebrate with their boys, to create some traditions in their families [and] have some memories they can hold onto.”
The gala is just one more piece of Austin’s overall commitment to community through his Positive Images organization. Founded in 2004, Positive Images provides programming to mothers and children regarding stress reduction, social boundaries, online safety, dating safety and co-parenting.
It also offers health awareness, education and leadership development creating partnerships between school systems, corporations and the community. In addition, the organization is working with the Minnesota Department of Corrections transition programs to help formerly incarcerated mothers re-enter community life.
Austin pointed out that while the program honors single mothers, it’s meant for married moms, too – and for that matter all moms period, including stepmothers, adoptive mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Along with, of course, other family members.
Attendance at the inaugural mother-son outing was 150; since then it has doubled. Austin expects well over 300 participants this time around. “Anyone and everyone who helps fill that void to raise that boy, we welcome them,” he said.
The Fourth Annual Mother-Son Gala will take place Sunday, October 28 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center, located at 6155 Earle Brown Drive, Brooklyn Center. For tickets or more information visit www.positiveimagemn.org or call 612-239-4823.