I was raised by women. After my father died, it was women who stepped in and taught me how to be a man. I am a card-carrying mama’s boy.
It was women who instructed me to be respectful, patient, diligent, sincere, attentive, spiritual and most importantly, how to put the toilet lid back down.
Women taught me to revere heaven, country, neighbor, and dog. They taught me to wash my hands before meals, to say my bedtime prayers, and I was taught to refer to my elders as ma’am, sir, or whenever I was I trouble, “your honor.”
And so it was that my youth was shaped by a gaggle of aunts, cousins, and matronly women who wore bath powder and polyester pants. I grew up being carried to and fro by females. It was a wonder I ever learned to walk.
When I was a baby, it was women who dressed me in ridiculously frilly outfits for Sunday service, such as yellow jumpsuits with white patent leather shoes. And they dressed me like this until was in my early thirties.
It was women who cut my hair. My mother gave me haircuts on the front porch with a stainless steel mixing bowl placed over my head. She used a pair of equestrian hair clippers which predated the First World War, draped me in a bath towel and gave me a popular hairstyle common among Navy SEALs.
But I am grateful for women. For it was women who taught me to believe in God, and how to memorize Bible verses. Throughout the years, these maxims and proverbs have stuck with me. Such as the verse:
“And the Lord doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”
And it was my aunt Eulah, the fiery Pentecostal, who made me memorize uplifting verses to encourage me during dark times:
“Let him that hath understanding count the number of the antichrist: for his number is six hundred threescore and six.”
It wasn’t just my family’s women who raised me. It was the women in our community. Church ladies. Teachers. Neighbors. Other people’s moms.
When I hit my teen years, women were still very central to my life. There was always an older woman emerging from the shadows trying to feed me.
I remember when I was 16, I dated a young woman whose grandmother sincerely believed that I was on the brink of serious malnourishment. I would show up on my date’s doorstep and an old woman would answer the door.
“You’re looking skinny,” she’d say. “Are you hungry?”
“Would you like something to eat?”
“No, thank you. I just ate supper.”
“How about a chicken leg.”
“Really, ma’am, I’m okay.”
“Some chess pie?”
“No, thank you, ma’am.”
“How about a tall glass of milk?”
“Are you sure? Because if you were any skinnier, I’d have to alter your pants so you only had one back pocket.”
And then the lady would feed me so much blackberry pie that I would take a nap on their couch while my date drove herself to the movie theater.
When I was younger, I was jealous of young men who still had their dads. These young men went fishing all the time with their fathers. Their dads taught them how to use table saws, field dress whitetails and turkeys. Their fathers taught them how to hold in their tears.
I was so envious I wanted to puke. I desperately wanted someone to sit beside me on the porch, crack open a Budweiser, offer me a sip, then fuzz my hair and say, “Don’t tell your mama.” I wanted someone to slap my backside whenever I came trotting off the Little League diamond and tell me, “Good hustle out there.”
Instead, I had the coiffed hair brigade.
But as I get older, I realize truly how lucky I was. And I particularly realized this today at the supermarket.
Today, I saw two young women, walking into the store. They were in their mid-twenties. Ahead of them, lingering on the sidewalk beside the door, were several young men.
As the young women approached, the young men did nothing. They didn’t smile, they didn’t greet the young women, they didn’t tip their caps, they didn’t run to open the door. You know what they did? They played on their phones.
That’s when I saw a kid trot toward the door. He was maybe 10 years old. The young boy tossed the door open for them. And then, as if the kid hadn’t done enough, as the young women passed he removed his cap to reveal a mop of sweaty brown hair.
I don’t know much about life, and I know even less about the nature of this world. But I know one thing: I’m grateful I was raised by women.
Laura W - April 25, 2022 10:02 am
Now I need to know if those girls were raised by women who taught them to say thank you to the young man who opened the door for them? Or did they pass by without acknowledging him? I love it when a young man gets the door for me and I make sure to thank him profusely.
Gordon - April 25, 2022 2:17 pm
Amen to your column today. Two strong women (my Mama and her mother) helped raise me. I am forever grateful.
Connie - April 25, 2022 10:19 am
Kudos to all of the women who helped mold you! They did a great job. 😊
Tim Bryant - April 25, 2022 11:53 am
Hi Sean = a friend recommended your blog, and I like your stuff. especially the dialogue with the grandma. My dad was absent much of the time I was growing up, and it was my grandpa who was always loving and gave me a little glass of beer from time to time. Blessed are those who have such experiences.
Jan - April 25, 2022 12:31 pm
Another good reminder of how blessed we are to have been raised by loving and kindhearted folks!
Michelle Connell - April 25, 2022 12:31 pm
Sean, it’s my 70th birthday today and your column is the perfect gift. Thank you.
Richard Owen - April 25, 2022 12:47 pm
I am thankful that you pay attention to the simple things happening around you, Sean. This is something I tried to do when I the photographer at the Walton Sun back in the day.
Shelton A. - April 25, 2022 1:03 pm
Good stuff….thanks for sharing. While you were asleep, did she alter your pants? Laughed a lot…thanks! God bless
Naomi Smith - April 25, 2022 1:36 pm
Beautiful reminder of a great upbringing!
Helen De Prima - April 25, 2022 2:21 pm
I hear you, Sean! I was raised by two feisty women: my grandmother who taught me to read almost before I could walk, and my unmarried aunt who assured me I could do anything I set my mind at. God bless Southern women!
Marilyn - April 25, 2022 2:31 pm
God bless the REAL men and REAL women who have been taught how to fill their God-given roles and …. pass on their upbringing to train those after them to do the same! We need REAL men and women who know how to live and fall on their knees in earnest prayer 🙏🏼 for themselves and their little ones.
Sina - April 26, 2022 7:14 pm
AMEN: TO Marilyn I wish Mothers took a bigger part in their children’s life anymore. I always heard things go to seed if not used. I hope Brains don’t but i get afraid I’m too late.
JACKIE LEON DARNELL - April 25, 2022 2:33 pm
I like this one. I was a mama’s boy byownself and still had a daddy present. Hope this takes.
Cynthia Russell - April 25, 2022 2:54 pm
Love Your Heart!!
Dale Parsons - April 25, 2022 3:45 pm
AlaRedClayGirl - April 25, 2022 8:10 pm
Nothin’ like a good Southern mama.
Linda Moon - April 25, 2022 9:26 pm
I’m glad good women did a good job raising you, Sean. A bunch of them did a good job for me, and I hope I’ve made them proud. I sometimes wish I knew what the heck 666 from the Bible really means. If Aunt Kat was still around, maybe she could tell me because my daughter and I are named for her: “Kathryn”. Now there’s a tie that binds isn’t it. Oh, and your hugs really tie a bond, too…I’m still feeling them!
Nancy Collier - April 25, 2022 9:55 pm
So, tell us about the time you said Your Honor! Loved that line
Linda Moon - April 25, 2022 10:09 pm
P.S. I just ate a Werther’s Original.
Jody - April 25, 2022 11:38 pm
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 26, 2022 3:52 pm
Sina - April 26, 2022 7:06 pm
Thank you Sean: for this story of women raising you and having a very big part in your life, I too have a son who happens to be an adult and he had his Dad around when he was younger but his Dad worked all the time to put food on the table and clothes on their bodies and a roof over our heads I am so thankful that his Dad returned from Viet-Nam and was able to see our children become adults. WE all had our share of women because all the men worked and could not take off just any day and go fishing, or hunting, or to the ball games but we were there to root them on every time they were at the ball field, I myself had to work but always tried to support the boys as they grew was yes for sure even though sometimes you didn’t feel like going to church after working a 16 hour day, but knew my children needed to hear the word of GOD . I won”t say anymore although there is lots more I could say but you have said it well and no need for mine.
Thank You for your comment section.
Michael Humphrey - April 29, 2022 2:40 pm
I too am a Mama’s boy. My father died when I was 10. My mother and sister soon began to tell me how to act and treat women. My mother was a hard working single mom in the late 60s and through the 70s. My sister and I came first before her in all decisions. When my mom came to me when I was 18 and asked if it was “ok” for her to go out on a date I realized just how much she had given to us. My mom was my parent when needed, counselor and my best friend. Yes “mama boys” do seem to be in touch with our feelings and can cry much to our embarrassment at times. We tend to know how to treat all others with respect…..and have bad haircuts.