My mother’s parental style was a gentle but firm smother. So naturally she wanted to hold me close for as long as she could. At a certain age, a boy simply doesn’t want to be seen holding hands with his mother. So with either a jerk or a series of tiny tugs I would assert a semblance of freedom, the first of many such steps.
I don’t remember how old I was when I first stopped holding hands with my mom, but I bet her memories of that shift are sharper than mine. My father likely stopped holding my hand in public before my mother did. My memory banks fizzle out here, leaving a gap my dad’s death last year makes permanent.
My sons are still firmly entrenched in the hand-holding stage. Both Ben and Eli like to walk independently of me at times, but when staring down an icy sidewalk or weaving through the crowds at Coors Field, they let me take their hands in mine.
And I love it unconditionally.
There’s something about holding your son’s hand that epitomizes everything about the father-child bond. It’s protective, a message telling him I’m not going anywhere so long as he needs me. I can read so much about him just by how he holds on. When he’s nervous, like during a recent ice skating trip, his grip is strong and unyielding. When he spots some of his friends on our daily walk to school, his hand loosens, as if he’s ready to bolt at any moment.
I’m told that people express and receive love in certain set ways. For me, touch is everything.
So I know someday I’ll feel my son’s hand start to free itself from mine, and I’ll realize the days of us holding hands are all but over. It’s a sign that I’ve done my job, and that he’s ready to take the next step toward being a strong, self-assured person.
It makes every time I hold my sons’ hands now all the more special.