Kiss and Hug

An unprecedented event happened this week.

My son, who has long demanded the extended kiss-and-hug goodbye as I drop him off at school, marched into his classroom without so much as a pat on the back. Up until now, it’s been, “Kiss and hug! Kiss and hug!” each morning as I put one foot toward the door to keep from being late to work. Usually, I walk out the door of his preschool knowing that he is watching me go, probably with his hands in his mouth, needing consolation from his teachers and the comfort of a stuffed animal to handle my departure.

Everybody tells me how adorable it is. Everybody tells me to cherish these moments for when he is a teenager and wants nothing to do with me. Everybody tells me I’ll miss the days when he was so woefully dependent.

And then it happened.

Tuesday morning he said, “big boys don’t need a kiss and hug. Right, daddy?”

Now I know if I could pause this moment in time, the soft-hearted father in me would reply, “big boys need them too, get over here” or “everybody needs a kiss and a hug, pal. Even daddy.” I’m also well aware that the Hallmark-channel-watching readers of this blog would insert a sentimental response here if they could.

So what did I say?

“That’s right, son. Big boys don’t need a kiss and a hug before school.”

Do I regret it? Not in the least.

The next morning, he put his lunch in the refrigerator at preschool and ran into the classroom without so much as stopping to consider a kiss and hug. Did I experience the twinge of regret? Did I long for that last embrace after a long and (frustrating) morning routine?

I can write, without hesitation: NOT IN THE LEAST.

The truth is that big boys don’t need a kiss and a hug before school. It may be a sad truth to some, but it is an inevitable truth for all. In the maturation process, we need enough stoicism to stand apart from our needs for validation and comfort. I see it as a proud moment in his development, not an unfortunate reality.

 

Maybe I’m overthinking the whole Xs and Os thing.

 

I have been waiting for this day my son’s whole life.

The day when he indicates that there is some emotional independence in his velcro-shoe-wearing soul. Will there be a day in the future where I long for him to return to clinging to use the way he used to? Maybe. I can’t say how I’ll feel about things tomorrow, let alone ten years from now. You’ll just have to stay tuned to the blog to find out.

What I can tell you is that I have an innate urge to see my son grow up. This urge existed when he was only the size of an avocado in my wife’s belly.

“It’s going to be nice to have someone help me clean the gutters,” I said, rubbing her bump.

“Let’s worry about changing his diapers first,” said my wife.

There is this instinct that wants my son to perpetually grow up already, and I can’t shut it off.

 

As for my daughter? That’s a different story.

If my daughter were to stay her small cooing self her whole life, I would not be disappointed. It has me thinking: why do I want to rush my son’s life forward while I play my daughter’s in slow motion? I can’t answer that, in the same way I can’t explain why there are daddy’s girls and mama’s boys—not the other way around. I’m sure it’s a function of genetics or neuro-chemicals or hormones or one of many topics that this father of two does not have the time or energy to research.

The same instinct that tells me to foster independence in my son, tells me to wrap my daughter up and cradle every piece of her precious innocence.

In my mind, I know I should want her to foster the same independence that I want for my son.

But, instincts are hard to fight, hard to reason with.

I’m not one to go read the latest book on child psychology to inform how I should parent. I’ve always believed all I really need to know has been slowly written in my DNA over the course of millennia. And I had great parents to model my parenting after. I’ll admit that a big part of that instinct brought me to marry a strong, independent woman and a kick-ass mother to handle the many (daily? by-the-minute?) situations that baffle me.

Instinct tells me that watching my son grow into emotional independence is an absolute victory.

So, just for that day, I celebrated.

Yes, I did a kick-step and half-skip to my car, feeling accomplished over something I have little to no control over—something that leads my son away from me, toward independence.

23 Responses to “Kiss and Hug

  • Colin Chatburn
    3 weeks ago

    just wait until the teenage years,you’ll be out preying to whatever god wil listen.for that brief increase in speed/time. cheers great read

    • Colin. You’re comment reminds me of that movie Click with Adam Sandler. Didn’t care for the movie, but what an idea. To have a remote control to speed through or freeze your life whenever you want it!

  • congrats to your son! I wish I was like that when I was his age. He sounds very smart as I probably needed at least a hug until I was 12

    • Well. He’s a pretty clingy dude. Or am I just thinking he’s super clingy because he’s the only four year old I got? Whatever the case, thanks for visiting!

  • They know when they are ready and it is up to us to sense and understand that. Well done.

    • So far so good. The next day when I dropped it off he got half way in and went, “oh I forgot” and came back for a hug. Which was nice. Still a victory that he didn’t need one though.

  • Oh to be a practical, logical, analytical man LOL…but I don’t watch hallmark movies either!

    • Annette! haha. Sorry for jab at Hallmark movies (even though you don’t watch them). I may be stereotyping here, I admit that. Hope you’re doing well. Always great to hear from you.

  • I am going to be the devil’s advocate. I think I would have added that there are days when even big boys need a hug. 😉

    • And you’re not wrong Birdie. I can’t say that. But, I have to say that everything in my instinct said it was an absolute victory. I think he needs to know that it is a good routine, but not a requirement to attend school!

  • Lisa Neumann
    3 weeks ago

    This post tugged at my heart. Now that I have teens I am navigating a new vernacular. It seems there are now rules for how I can (well mostly cannot) engage with them. This includes, but is not limited to, speaking, listening, mimicking, miming (is that a word mime-ing?) and/or joking, whilst in public or in the privacy of our home. LOL. I love watching you and your kids grow. xox

    • Thanks Lisa. And thank you for stopping by! I can’t imagine those new vernaculars. All in good time, i guess.

  • My youngest son, Drew, is 27 and military. He visits a couple of times a month, and he and his dad do the “guy thing”…play video games, watch gory movies, build or repair a computer…and eat anything that isn’t nailed down! 😄 I leave them to it and head to my writing cave. In the quiet of the night when the mister is watching “The Guns of Navarone” for the 345,789th time, Drew suddenly appears and says, “Mom, I need a hug.” LOL! They grow up, move away, and live their own lives… but they never forget. 😉

    • Haha. “Eat anything that isn’t nailed down.” What a great comment. It is a wonderful extension to the post itself. Like a post script from an experienced parent. Thanks for visiting Felicia. And may I add, THANK YOU DREW FOR YOUR SERVICE!

  • I actually love that my boys (9 & 7) still hold my hand, or want tickles or hug me and all that. I want them to be independent too, and they have their codes of conduct etc when their buddies are over and all, but I know that this will all end. So when my oldest wanted me to cuddle with him, and I was exhausted, I remembered that I will never have that moment ever again. So I went and lay with him and read a book. It will be something that he and I will remember.

    • That’s an awesome moment you captured, Paul. I’m glad you related to the need to foster independence. Of course, I got a little kick back from this post. A sort of “don’t be so hard on the little guy” type thing, but you get it. We can’t find our instincts on these things sometimes.

  • It strikes me as interesting how differently you view this regarding your son and your daughter. At the risk of thinking I am an expert, I’d say that’s worth thinking about on a number of levels. FWIW, by every definition I am a “big boy” and I have greeted/been greeted by my dad with a hug and a kiss every time we see each other forever, this included rebellious teen years. Interestingly, my father in law greets his 3 sons in the same manner, and these are big, macho, Italian dudes. I’m conflicted (hopefully obviously not in a negative way) by this post. Happy to discuss further if you like. And as always, I appreciate what you share about your life.

    • I have the same concern as you do. I can’t tell you why I treat them or think about them so differently. I really shouldn’t. I was conflicted when I felt this way, and conflicted when I wrote it. Most conflicting was posting the thing. I really appreciate some honest feedback. I’ll be taking you up on that phone call as well.

  • Mark, I hope at 55 I reach the level of maturity you exhibit so much younger! I admire your getting out there, I admire your lack of defensiveness regarding my comments, and I admire your honesty regarding the conflict you feel within this issue. I wish we could get together this weekend! Family overload LOL. Thanks for not misinterpreting my comments; you know I only want the best for you.

  • johnny Spence
    3 weeks ago

    this is Mags you just made me blubb😹😘😎😎😎

  • I felt very intrigued reading this and find it interesting to consider the two opposites. It caused me to reevaluate and ponder the reasons by allowing a deeper look and I guess in the end it depends on the vision we set out for ourselves and how we hope our children to grow up. Maybe it has to do with what is ingrained into us from a little on when we think of strong,providing I dependable men and our fair, loving and nurturing princesses. Beautifully written.

    • And then there’s always the question…is it what is ingrained in us or the archetypes or stereotypes that society puts at our lap? Thanks for extending the discussion.

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