Just last week a friend and I were holding and playing with our infant sons on a play-date, recalling this old adage and pondering just how distanced we might eventually be from the current objects of our hearts' greatest joys. We spoke with deflated acceptance of the fact that we generally need to remind our (admittedly abnormally busy) husbands to send cards and call on their mothers' birthdays and Mother's Day. We related the chatty closeness we each have with our own mom and acknowledged that any hopes of such tight bonds with our grown-and-married sons were most likely futile.
Oh don't get us wrong; we love our sons with our whole hearts, about 1,000%. But with a daughter the assumption is your relationship will grow, mature, and deepen over time; she will ultimately forever be your best friend and closest confidante, and you hers. With a son, sadly (but rightly) you know that such is not likely to be the case. Instead, you're braced for a gradual, bittersweet "letting go" as he makes his way in the world. As you pour your heart and soul into him day after day, hour upon hour, sacrifice upon sacrifice you know: Someday he will summon every ounce of the love, care, sweat and blood that you so tenderly, laboriously, and selflessly poured into him and he will (most likely) bestow all of that onto another woman, loving her with his all as you first loved him.
But you don't resent this. Your love for your him is far greater than your love for yourself and so your very deepest, most intense wish is for the "story to end" with him being happy and fulfilled, and that means independent. You also know that the happiest men are happily married, and so you
And so even as you parent your little son with the bittersweet knowledge that he will one day "leave his mother and father, and cleave to his wife" (Gen. 2-24) you're happy. Happy to have him for however long he's yours, happy to mother him, happy to snuggle him, fulfilled. For even after he's gone off into the world, the foundation you built for him - good and bad, but hopefully mainly good - will inform his choices, support him in rough times, and teach him how to be. Your efforts will pay off for him, and that's why you're making them.
Yes, a son may be a son 'till he takes a wife. But a mother is a mother all of her life.