Friday, September 6, 2013

Holding Hands

I knew it was coming, but somehow, I was still surprised when it happened.

Many stages of the boys' childhoods I have been happy to see go, not because I want time to fly by but because the stages are annoying or frustrating and not really anything to cherish, like the screaming stage.

But when I picked up Ethan from school the other day and reached for his hand, he hesitated.

Then he grabbed my hand but his grip was weak and half-assed. He didn't really want to hold my hand but he hasn't quite yet reached the point where he thinks he can flat refuse. 

It's coming, though. 

We walked to the car and I felt it, the slipping away of the time in his life where he will happily and without a second thought grab my hand, or run up to me with joy on his face and throw his arms around me. He's in second grade and his friends are starting to influence him, and, per the natural course of things, he is starting to assert his independence. 

Once he left the baby stage, I couldn't wait for him to be more independent; still can't wait for him to be able to do more things for himself. But it comes at a price. I knew the cost, but didn't know if I was going to be ready to pay it when the time came to pony up.

As we walked to the car together, just the two of us alone for the first time in weeks if not months, chatting about his day, I kept a loose grip on his hand, casually tightening it a bit when I felt him starting to pull away. 

I guess I'm not entirely ready to pay the price. Yet. 

And little does he know, if, away from his friends, he refuses to give me a hug or a kiss, I'll throw him down and smother his face with them. 

I don't "cherish every moment" and completely despise that phrase, a guilt-inducing and impossible-to-achieve platitude that seems to be said by people who have forgotten what "every moment" of life was like, and that many of those moments were less than cherishable. But I cherish some moments, and it seems that they are moments only. They're not always perfect, or great, some of them are even completely mundane. Some of them are seared into me, like the first time I saw Ethan's face, screwed up in a screaming cry, his toothless gums, his cleft chin, his lower lip sticking out in the best pout I have ever seen between his cries.

And now, knowing that the days of that little boy's free-flowing, unrestrained affection are dying a slow death, I might make a conscious effort to hang on to his hand an extra moment or two. While also celebrating that he is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing: spreading his wings.

At least he still wants to hold his little brother's hand.

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