I've thought about this some more since my first post. The more I think about it, the more I feel it's just not right. Specifically, I'd like to weigh in on the subject of wether it is *always* best to let the child decide when to wean. Two points:
1) If this story is true, I would seriously question wether continuing the "nursing" relationship for this long is truely the boy's choice. As unpleasant as it is to think about, there are parents who will manipulate their children in an unhealthy way in order to satisfy their own needs. A powerful parent can cause a great deal of confusion for a child. (Think about the conflicted feelings of abused children, for example.) The boy's desire to continue the "nubbing" may not be based truely on his own needs, but rather on some fear of rejecting his mother (or having her reject him). This is why I don't buy the point that some have made that this is just an extreme version of a 4 year old nursling. No -- a 4 year old is still very naturally self-focused, and will take what he needs, if allowed to, (or reject what he doesn't need), with little regard for the feelings of his mother or anyone else. An 11 year old, on the other hand, can understand his place in his family, his peer group, his society. He *must* have some thought about what this relationship means in these contexts! I just find it hard to imagine that there isn't some emotional control being exerted by the mother in this situation. The fact that she brags about this relationship at work suggests as much. (Or it suggests that she's lying for the thrill of it.
2) For the second point, lets assume that the mother is *not* controlling, and that an 11 year old nurseling is simply on the far end of the "normal" scale. Which would be the more loving action? a) Allowing the son to continue this behavior and telling others about it
in a culture which views such things as sexually devient and damaging (and could land the son in a foster home and/or on the witness stand against his mother). b) Gentle weaning accompanied by plenty of non-nursing affection and an effort to meet the needs of a pre-teen more directly. (i.e. Is he stressed about something? Does he need to learn some coping strategies for shyness or anxiety? Does he need to be in a different situation at school? etc.) Love is an *action* and it looks different at ages 1 or 4 or 11. I would argue that bucking the culture (and bragging about it) to such an extreme degree - that is, to a degree which could cause *much* more damage to the child than weaning - is not a loving action.