I am Steve Cohen

"The Truth Might Make You Uncomfortable"

Category: Parenting


I have often wondered what being a mama’s boy really meant.  Growing up in New York, getting called a mama’s boy wasn’t exactly what you considered to be a compliment. It usually meant that you were weak, cowardly, and reliant on your mother to take care of you and although I was called a mama’s boy far too often, I am also personally guilty of using this expression against others in a negative way. 

When I was younger, I remember being called a mama’s boy by my friends and teammates when I would rush home to be on time for dinner, or when I would meet my mom on time for a pick up from hockey practice, or even when I would reject drugs or alcohol at parties. I hated this expression for it made me feel weak, less of a man somehow.

There’s one occasion I remember specifically- my junior year of high school when my mom brought me a jacket to school because the weather was getting colder and she didn’t want me to get sick again.  As I reflect on that day 40 some years ago, I still wish that they didn’t announce the jacket delivery on the school loud speaker during homeroom.

During my college years away in San Diego, I would talk at length on the phone with my mom and have detailed conversations about school, friends, and my general well-being. Somehow, these “normal” mother and son conversations always seemed to generate some poke or jab from at least one of my roommates that often led to yet another mama’s boy joke.

Now that I was older, the mama’s boy jokes didn’t taunt me nearly as much as they did when I was younger. Instead the continuous jokes made me curious if my relationship with my mom was different than those around me and made me really question what being a mama’s boy truly meant. Maybe being called a mama’s boy wasn’t that bad after all? But this wasn’t a topic that most men discussed in the late 80’s & 90’s.

When I got married, my wife was appreciative of my relationship with my mom and never tried to drive a wedge between us or be disruptive to our relationship.  My mom knew her boundaries, but that didn’t mean I didn’t council with her about raising a family and how to maintain a healthy marriage. I think it is so important for men to have someone they can confide in that has no hidden agenda.  Let’s face it, we are very lucky if we have three people on the planet that actually truly care about us, and for me, one of those people has always been, and will always be my mom. 

My wife and I are raising two daughters and over the years, I have found the dynamics of a mother daughter relationship to be very different, but there is still a common thread. When our children are happy, my wife is happy. When my children are sad, my wife is sad. This emotional connection and the ability to feel what another is feeling completely astounds me. How many people out there really feel when you feel?  How many people lose sleep at night worrying about you?

My mom is now in her early 80’s and her health is failing. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and I know not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about me. I am 54 and my mom still calls me every other day to ask me how I feel, how’s the job, kids and wife and if I made it home safe from my business trip. She is my raving fan and looking back, I don’t regret one day or minute of my life being a mama’s boy. 

Maybe it’s time we change the dynamics around being a mama’s boy by teaching sons from a very young age to embrace and cherish the unconditional love our moms provide us with and to celebrate, honor, and respect mothers far beyond the second Sunday in May.

Recently, I was asked by someone half my age, “Are you a mama’s boy”?  My answer, “YOU ARE DAMN RIGHT I AM!”

I Can No Longer Protect You or Can I?

At a recent sporting event, my youngest daughter was verbally assaulted by drunk fan, but fortunately, I was there to defend her. This incident actually sparked me to write this blog as the reality set in that I won’t always be there to protect her.  I will share that I was very proud of my daughter’s composure during the incident and I left the arena encouraged by her maturity in the wake of a very disturbing situation.

From the day a child is born, mom and dads are overcome with the natural instinct to protect our kids.  Whether girl or boy, we are willing to sacrifice our own lives so that our kids can be safe, healthy, and happy.  Every parent worries about their children’s well-being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even the slightest sign of an illness can ruin your day and something more serious can completely destroy you.  So when do we stop worrying?  When can we come up for air and do we ever shift from protector and nurturer to just nurturer?

I am a father of two daughters, ages 16 and 20, and maybe men worry more about their girls than boys but according to my Dad, the worry is just different. From the time they are toddlers, we are constantly coaching, loving, guiding, teaching, and often hovering to protect them.  From what to eat, to what to wear, the importance of faith and education, and the type of people they should surround themselves with, we tackle these discussions one at a time and repetitively.  As they mature into young men and women, we have the dreaded discussion about sex and the tough conversations about what kind of character traits, history, and behaviors our kids should be looking for in a significant other to date or potentially share their heart with and even their lives with.

I have come to the conclusion that there is not a parent out there who has found the perfect balance between being a mentor, coach, parent, and friend that provides the right dose of guidance, discipline and encouragement.  In a blink of an eye, if we are not careful, our kids can find themselves headed down a path that may not end well. The wrong friends, bad health choices, bad career guidance or simply no healthy relationships to reference all play a role in the outcomes.

If not us, who else should we trust with our kids?

So what do we know anyway, right? Just ask any teenager or adolescent and they will gladly share with you how they believe their parents DON’T GET IT, DON’T UNDERSTAND and TIMES ARE DIFFERENT.  Somehow they think we are robots and we don’t hurt, love and struggle and that our life experience is not relevant.  I share with new parents that all kids become judgmental so be prepared to have your credibility challenged.  Just because you aren’t a perfect role model doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be present in your kids’ lives.  Being an active, engaged parent and looking out for your kids is not a luxury or an option, it’s your primary job second to nothing else in your life.  If you aren’t present, engaged and willing to deal with the angst that comes with it, you may have failed them.

Being present, engaged and willing to have the tough and sometimes confrontational discussions can be very draining emotionally and can often lead to parents disengaging. If you are reading this and feeling discouraged, I urge you to find the energy by looking at all the good in your children to help fix what might be broken, as you may not get another shot at it.  Our kids need us!!!

We all struggle as parents with drawing the fine line between knowing when to step in and when to back off, especially when we are watching them make a mistake that may have long-term consequences. Almost every parent will tell you that if you push too hard they will often deliberately continue the behavior you fear most.  Are we supposed to watch a train wreck? Do we risk it? Is our job only to give guidance and it’s up to them to either take it or ignore it?  Frankly what choices do we have?

Maybe society survived for thousands of years because parents were active in determining their kid’s choices. Have we swung too far the other way? Have we become complacent? Have we caved to the outside pressures which are more powerful than our spoken words?  I don’t know all of the answers, but divorce rates continue to climb, kids are coming back home after college with no direction, 1 in 8 teenagers are suffering from depression, and in my opinion, women are being more objectified today than three decades ago.

I have concluded that despite all of the guidance from those who I respect and admire and regardless of how exhausting it may be, I will do my part to ensure I protect my kids from what they don’t see happening in their blind spots. That is my job and it’s my privilege to have this assignment.

Love, Dad

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Off to College- Letter to My Daughter

Dear Daughter,

As I sat in my dorm room with no distractions, I read the words written for me by the person in my life that is my hero. His guidance to me as a young man has stayed with me for over three decades and I can only hope that this letter provides you some guidance as my Dad’s letter did for me.

Let me start by sharing with you how much I love you. There are no words to describe how deep a Father’s love is for his daughters. The day God blessed me with you will always be the best day of my life.

I also want to take a moment to apologize for not always being the perfect Dad. My personal and professional frustrations often have taken a toll on me. As a maturing woman, I think it’s important for you to understand that men often associate their purpose in life with their financial and career accomplishments. I hope you will forgive me for not always being present, positive, or engaged. Through the trials and tribulations, I can assure you that family has always been the most important thing for me. It has been a privilege watching you grow into the wonderful woman you have become..

I am so grateful that you have had your mom as a role model. I hope you will begin to understand what a rock star your mom is and the amazing foundation she laid out for you to be a strong, independent, confident woman. Through her unwavering support of each member of this family, she has taught you what being completely unselfish looks like and what true love feels like.

High School is full of drama and you did your very best to navigate it. I am happy that you made some new friends and equally sad for you that you lost some old ones. You are about to embark on one of the most exciting chapters of your life so leave the past in the past. The bonds you may have developed with people from your childhood often fade, but the new relationships you form over the next 4-8 years will have the most impact on your future. Always remember to never let anyone or anything define you!!!!

Your educational opportunity, meeting new people with different views, and experiences are all part of this new chapter. As you’re walking through campus on a beautiful day in Tallahassee, just stop, soak it in, take a moment to appreciate your beautiful life and just smile.

You are officially off to college, so please take what I have taught you and make good decisions. Respect yourself, take care of your body, live by the moral code that is the foundation of the person you are.  Meet new people and avoid being judgmental. Most of the students you will meet are trying to figure shit out just like you. Trust no one and keep your guard up at all times for nobody is there to protect you. This world can be a scary place and I don’t want you to be a victim.

Please keep in touch with your sister on a regular basis. You have been her role model, her idol, and she has a deep love for you. Find it in your heart to continue a relationship with her. A bond with a sister who loves you can be the greatest blessing of all and if you are lucky, she will emerge as your best friend in the years to come. 

Most likely, you will lose one, if not more than one, of your Grandparents over the next 4 years. Understand that nothing brings them more joy than getting a direct call from you.  Avoid Snap Crap for 5 minutes and just call them to check in. I promise you that you will cherish your last conversations with them.

I am personally overwhelmed by the thought of not seeing you every day. You have been more than a daughter to me, for you have been my closest friend and companion. I may need to text you often as I adjust to this new chapter of my life.

Find balance at college, but remember why you are there.  Keep your eye on the goal at all times so that you can prioritize what’s most important.  Your grades must come first and fun second. These 4 years will fly by and I can assure you that you won’t remember all of the parties you attended, but your academic results will significantly determine your next chapter.

I love you very much and I am so proud of you.

Love your biggest fan,


Letter to My Daughter

I know how overwhelming life can be at times and the anxiety you have over your life choices. The first step to finding balance is to learn how to cut yourself a break. You have an entire life ahead of you and there will be bumps and bruises and setbacks along the way. Your goals will shift and the journey is often unpredictable. If you stay focused on a few goals, stay positive in the wake of negativity, you’ll be just fine and maybe even Great.

“Focus on what is right in your life to find the energy to fix what appears to be broken.”

I found by creating a list of all the wonderful things I’ve accomplished and can still accomplish, I find my way back to center.

It’s the fine balance between living in the Here and Now, verse looking in your rear view mirror or only looking ahead. Most people will tell you only look forward and never backwards but this is not realistic.  I think it’s equally important to cherish what you have accomplished and also learn how to forgive yourself for a past failure. None of us are perfect and learning how to forgive yourself may be one of the most important things you learn to do.

Here are some of the behaviors that are helping me that hopefully can help you:

  • Find new friends and people in my life that can inspire you and bring out the best in you. Decide today to rid yourself of all people that are toxic in your life.
  • Take care of yourself physically and mentally. This means being a bit more selfish with your time. You must prioritize your wellness for you only have one life to live.
  • Make a better effort to love those around you and make sure they know how you love them and appreciate them. A simple thank you, I love you message goes along way.
  • Spend more quality time with my mother and father for their hourglass is not full of sand. There are no life contracts and those people you love most can be taken from you in a blink of an eye.
  • Narrow down your professional and personal objectives. Focus on the vital few verse the many. It’s the vital few that will yield the most results.
  • Chill the Fuck out and have some Fun!!!!!

Always remember you are not a quitter and you didn’t quit anything. You took your pursuit as far as the journey was meant to be. In fact, you had the courage to pursue everything vs being a coward and not facing challenging goals. That is what you must tell yourself every day.

That drive to attempt what is often a huge undertaking will prevail for you. You never stop the pursuit of a new journey just because the others didn’t work out as you hoped.

We are fighters with big dreams which often comes with a price of disappointment. Many more journeys are to come with many more setbacks ahead. I promise you that sprinkled in there will be the life highlights, special moments, memories and some amazing accomplishments.

Now dust yourself off and be the courageous talented young women I know you are.

Love, Dad


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