I miss touching people. Okay, as a standalone statement I acknowledge that this sounds incredibly creepy…but it’s not meant to be.
I miss hugging. I miss shaking hands. I miss high fiving. I miss wrapping my arm around someone’s shoulder. The fist and elbow bumps just aren’t doing it for me. Another mom and I tried to celebrate our sons’ semi-final baseball playoff win with toe taps and I inadvertently kicked her in the shin. Air hugs, waves, and blowing kisses leave me longing for the way things used to be…when we could touch people.
I get it, though. I understand that we are trying to battle a virus that we are still learning new things about on a daily basis. No-touch greetings are necessary in order to slow the spread. I certainly want to keep the people that I care about healthy and safe…for all I know I could be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 right now.
Knowing and understanding all this, though, still doesn’t mean that social distancing isn’t hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not deprived of physical contact. My husband is very affectionate. His love language is clearly physical touch, whereas acts of service cause my heart to pitter patter. “What Hon, you woke up super early to scrub all three bathrooms from toilet to tub to surprise me…DAMN, YOU FREAKING LOVE ME!” (FYI, my husband is an amazing man, but this scenario would only happen in my dreams).
Like father like son, Andrew — who will be eleven in October — also freely expresses his love through touch. He is a cuddler, hand holder, hugger, kisser, and snuggler. He always has been since birth. However, there definitely has been a shift in the past year. These acts of affection between mother and son can no longer happen in public…where other people can see.
This does not come as a surprise to me. This is totally normal, as he is now a tween and becoming more and more independent. Giving your mama a big hug in front of your friends is a sure fast way to lose cool points and street cred.
Two days ago, we were at a park sitting on rocks by the lake, sharing cups of Italian Ice when I said, “Gimme some sugar.” From the time he was a little boy, whenever I would say this Andrew would give me a smooch on the cheek. Not this time, though. Instead, he responded, “Mom, we’re in public. People can see us.”
I looked around and there was literally no one around us, which is why I made a go for it in the first place. When I asked him what people, he pointed to a teeny tiny person in a canoe about 200 feet away from us, paddling in the opposite direction.
So yes — getting rejected hurt my feelings, but overall I’m okay with it because I know behind closed doors Andrew is still mine.
In the comfort of our home, Andrew cuddles with me on the couch every night as we watch a show together before bed. We love reality shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice, or baking competitions on Netflix like Sugar Rush and Nailed It. It is my absolute favorite part of my day; I look forward to it! Sometimes Andrew will sprawl out and lay his head on my chest or stomach and I will stroke his hair. Other times we just sit side by side and hold hands.
The other night as we sat down, Andrew said, “Mom, do you know what is going to feel so good? The hardcore cuddling that we are about to do.” I laughed out loud because this sounded absolutely hilarious. But what my son said was music to my ears, because I know that time is not on my side.
The day will come when Andrew will not want to touch me at all, much less “hardcore cuddle” with me. He will not reach out to hug me. He will not reach out to hold my hand. He will not give me a peck on the cheek. His future teen self will most likely be mortified that he ever uttered those words (…and now I’m crying).
As a rational adult I understand that this is natural and expected as he matures and becomes a teenager, but how will I survive my child social distancing from me? Right now, I feel like I need Andrew’s touch as much as I need air to breathe. And Andrew is an only child; I don’t have another kid to get my cuddle fix from. So while I acknowledge that transition and change is the essence of child development, it doesn’t stop me from occasionally sighing and saying, “Where did my baby go?”
The old adage “The days are long, but the years are short” is finally hitting me over the head like a ton of bricks. One evening in the near future Andrew will lay his head on my chest for the final time. How will I know when that is?
Are there support groups for moms of teen boys to help each other cope with the lack of physical contact with their sons (and maybe it’s not just boys … maybe it happens with teen girls too)? My boss once told me that she had to bribe her 16-year-old son to hug her. It crushed me to hear this, but I was also hopeful for the possibility: “So Andrew, you want to use the car tonight? Sure, if you hold my hand for thirty seconds.” Maybe I could accept this. After all, bribery has been in my parental toolkit since the beginning.
All I can do is enjoy each cuddle session like it’s the last. I can have gratitude in my heart that I have the opportunity to watch my baby grow into an amazing young man. Quoting Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
And hey, at least I’ll still be able to peek in on Andrew when he sleeps. A mom can always stare at her child while they are sleeping no matter what age they are … that will always be okay, right?