When my son Eli was a baby, he was the most sweet and cuddly child I’d ever met. He loved nothing more than being held in my arms. There was no place he’d rather be than in my lap, and he gave the most wonderful slobbery kisses. When he grew to a toddler, the “love fest” continued. Every time I sat on the couch my cute little redhead would bound over to me, crawl up in my lap and wrap his arms around me. He would always ask for kisses or for me to hold his hand.
In kindergarten I feared I would lose my little bundle of affection, but fortunately I didn’t. Everyday when I dropped him off at school he would instruct me on how many kisses I would need to give him before I could leave.
“Mommy, today I want ten kisses.”
One day as I obeyed and gave him his ten kisses at the door, another little boy began teasing him. My mama bear instinct reared its ugly head and I was about ready to give that little five-year-old a piece of my mind, when my son put his hand on his hip and said to the kid, “I love my mommy and I love to give her kisses, okay?” Okay.
My husband wasn’t quite as excited about this story as I was.
By first grade, Eli no longer needed ten kisses at his classroom door, but he would give me a swift kiss in the car before heading into the school.
But in third grade everything changed. It was a few weeks into school and I remember dropping Eli off in front of the campus. I leaned over, ready for my goodbye kiss but instead felt cool air as he opened the door and hopped out. I waited patiently thinking he had just forgot. I watched his back as he ran off but I didn’t drive away. I was certain that when he realized he left without kissing me he would come running back. He was the one who needed the kiss, afterall, not me. I was just worried about his wellbeing. After several minutes had passed wihout him returning, I did the only adult thing I could think of. I started to cry. My baby was growing up. He didn’t want to kiss me goodbye anymore.
My husband liked this story a little more than the last one. He informed me that it was perfectly natural for Eli to stop kissing me goodbye. I think he even used the word healthy (whatever). So, I never mentioned anything to Eli and morning after morning he got out of the car without kissing me. Eventually I got over it.
But last year, something happened that really bothered me. My son was in sixth grade and one morning I had to take him to the office to get a late slip. As we walked I noticed Eli walking a lot faster than me. I would speed up to catch up to him and then he would walk faster. Now I know we don’t kiss goodbye anymore but even in sixth grade, Eli and I were pretty close. We laughed and talked all the time. And besides that I’m a young, cool mom! He couldn’t be embarrassed by me, could he? I finally asked him what was going on.
He hissed under his breath, “Mom, just walk behind me. I don’t want anyone to see us walking together.”
“What?” I laughed. “That’s silly.”
“Mom,” he whispered. “Just walk behind me.”
Still thinking he couldn’t be serious, I tried another tactic. “Are you afraid everyone will talk about how hot your mom is?”
The look he threw me told me I went too far. Ooops.
Since that morning, I’ve given Eli his distance when we’re out in public. It’s hard for me at times. In my mind, he’s still my cuddly baby. Sometimes the fact that he’s so grown up gives me an ache in my heart that makes it hard to breathe. I wish time didn’t have to go so quickly.
But this morning on the drive to school I was acting silly and he laughed, told me I was funny. It made my heart swell with joy. My son still talks with me, he still loves me, he still laughs with me. I haven’t lost him. He’s just getting older.