I recognize that I am walking into an emotional minefield with this one. People have feelings about mother-son or father-daughter dates. Strong feelings on both sides of the argument, in fact. And so I say this knowing the ire I may incur: I won't take my kid on a mother-son date. I find it weird and unnecessary and, well, it's just not for me.
First of all, let's get on the same page as to what I mean by "mother-son date." It's specifically when you call it that and/or when you model a one-on-one outing with your son on a stereotypical date between two romantically linked people. So I'm hardly saying you shouldn't have quality time with your little guy out of a sense of propriety. And I don't even think these so-called dates are inappropriate. I'm not here to rag on anyone who does them (you do you, guys) but I won't shy from my opinions on why I think they're bizarre... and I do think they're bizarre.
I mean, really, isn't dating in and of itself really pretty bizarre? Like, leaving mothers and sons out of it all together (which, I'll be honest, is a combination of words that leaves me feeling uncomfortable and I feel like I shouldn't have to see together), it's just a strange little sliver of the world. There's so much I could pick apart about dating in general, but that's another conversations for another day. When it comes to mother-son dates, I skip them for the following reasons:
Because He's A Child
And, as a child, he DGAF about dates or any of the trappings of a date. "Oh, I get to dress up and eat in a restaurant that doesn't serve french fries? That sounds... awesome?" This is not fun for a child. And, granted, I don't think a child's entire existence should be focused around things that are "fun," but if this special outing to bond with a parent isn't fun then what's the real point?
Because I Can Teach Him Manners Outside Of This Context
"It's a great opportunity to teach manners!" you argue.
You know what else is? Literally every single day of his life. I'm from Connecticut, people: good manners are important to me and I take them seriously. As such, we practice good table manners in my house, at other people's houses, and literally every restaurant we go to. As someone who went to restaurants a lot as a kid, I think it's important for kids to know how to behave while dining out (and, most importantly, how to treat the staff with kindness and respect), but I don't need to take my boy on a so-called "date" in order to do that. They should show nice manners whenever they're out, not just on "special occasions."
Because Who Even Goes On Dates Anymore?
That's just not a thing anymore, unless you're including a dating app, and I am not willing nor prepared to get into the logistics of swiping right or left with my child, people.
Seriously, though, the ritualized way we have long viewed "dating" (though not actually for that long, all things considered) is pretty different than it was even 20 years ago. So insisting on perpetuating these old, highly choreographed routines just for the sake of it is stupid... kind of like how we all had a square dancing unit in gym class.
Because Date Etiquette Is Regressive
"I want to raise a little gentleman!" you might say.
It's not that I want my son to be some sort of boorish pig, but I feel like putting good behavior and respect into the categories of "ladies" and "gentlemen" does something distasteful to it. Respect is respect regardless of who you are, and kind behavior shouldn't need to be tailored to one's gender. Because now it's not just about good manners and respect, but about a very specific gender performance. Generally speaking, this keeps women and girls up on a pedestal while giving men and boys agency. And while it's (on the surface) based on benevolence, it's condescending and paternalistic. And besides, as Gloria Steinem said: "A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space."
Because We Can Hang Out Without Packaging It As A Date
I'm not saying mothers and sons shouldn't have dedicated hang out time. I think that's a great idea! One-on-one time with a parent is valuable and I think there's something uniquely valuable about having one-on-one time with a parent of a different gender. But why do we have to package it as a "date?"
As stated above, a standard "date" generally consists of activities that are of no interest to a child and if you're doing something outside of those traditional parameters why are we calling it a "date"? Just take your kid to mini-golf or hiking or out for ice cream or to a playground. That's cool enough without calling it "a date."
Because I Don't Want To Conflate "Respecting Women" With "Chivalry"
"Having mother-daughter dates teaches him how to treat a lady!"
Ummm... OK? I think with a solid foundation in treating all humans with basic respect and dignity, he's going to learn how to treat a lady. If you're talking about how to treat a romantic or sexual interest I do not what him think back to his childhood and go, "Hmmm... what did I do with mom on our dates...?"
Honestly, I'm always here for any questions my children have, but my god, they can figure some of that stuff out on their own. Besides, romance is hardly a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Let him enjoy learning how precisely to win over anyone he dates as individuals, instead of going through some weird, old-fashioned routines.
Because I Want Him To See Women Outside Of A Romantic Context
Why does everything done between men/boys and women/girls have to take on some romantic trapping or undertone? This feeds into the whole harmful idea that men and women can't be friends, or shouldn't ever be alone together, or a whole bunch of other creepy things that keeps women out of positions of power and men in a state of toxic masculinity. Just hang out, you guys! Maybe not every person of your "opposite" gender is a romantic possibility.
Because It Presumes Heterosexuality
Like, we're doing this (apparently) so that our sons will learn how to treat women and be chivalrous and gentlemanly toward their romantic interests... but what if they aren't romantically interested in women? Or aren't romantically interested period? It's just operating off of a lot of assumptions.
I don't know my kids' orientations yet. I don't know if they know their orientations yet and, frankly, I just want that to develop on its own without me seeming to push anything one way or the other.
Because It Buys Into The Idea That Female Romantic Partners Are Mom Replacements
OK, I'm going to get a little bit cerebral/psychoanalytical here but you're a smart crowd and, well, I definitely think it's true.
When you're conflating "mother as romantic surrogate" I think it's super easy to flip that as "romantic partner as mother surrogate," especially as time goes on. I'm just saying, I think it's better to have your relationship with your mother be one thing, your relationship with romantic partners be another, and don't conflate the two.... like, ever.