Monday, December 28, 2009

Seperation Anxiety

I’ve never been a particularly demonstrative person. In fact, during my first go-round on the Wheel of Matrimony, when I was married to the only daughter of a large Italian family addicted to the Art of the Hug, another in-law and I would spend most family gatherings by ourselves in what become known as the Non-Sicilian Non-Hugging Corner. But once I became a father, all that changed, and I simply couldn’t hold my son anywhere near enough.

The infant they couldn’t pry out of my arms in the delivery room is now twelve, and I’m not taking the aging of my son very well. It’s not that I mind the fact that he gets a bit more verbal and lots more worldy, although I do regret his loss of innocence (and, to be honest, gullibility…it’s a lot harder to get “tall tales” by him than it used to be). He’s becoming a more interesting person by the day, and while we always talked to each other now we have real conversations about things that matter. What I feel most acutely is the loss of physical closeness.

The first blow came when he was seven. Our usual night time routine was called “Daddy and Boy Movie Night.” We would fix a snack, pick a video, and watch together until it was time for story and bed. We’d sit at one end of the couch, both of us sharing the scratchy llama blanket, and he’d lean up against me as we delighted in the hijinks of Laurel and Hardy, that week’s rented film, or the cartoon du jour from our collection.

One night I made us two bowls of ice cream and headed towards the sofa. He was already seated at the far end, blanket wrapped around him. I put dessert on the table and sat on our traditional side of the couch.

“Brendan, don’t you want to come over here and sit with me?

“No thanks, Daddy. I’ll be okay here on my own.”


After movie time was story. Over the years, we had moved from picture books to stories to chapter books. I would tuck him into bed, Mr. Monkey under one arm and Clark the Shark lying across the foot of the bed standing guard, and climb onto his bed to sit next to him as I read. If he didn’t fall asleep while we were reading, he would ask me to sit with him until he drifted off, and he’d be sure to tell me to check on him during the night before I went to bed. (Which I did, and still do, religiously).

About a year and a half ago, we had just finished one book and it was time to choose another. I got out a couple of Great Illustrated Classics and laid them out on the bed.

“Brendan, what do you want to read for story tonight?”

He sighed. “Well, I really want to read my Calvin and Hobbes book on my own.” I must have looked stricken, because he quickly added, “But you can still tuck me in if you want.”


My son is now in sixth grade. Two weeks ago, I picked him up from school. We went through our usual pick-up routine, which goes as follows”

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hmmmm…you look familiar.”

“Daaaaad!” (Insert scorn, then raise two octaves for full effect.)

We got his backpack and headed out towards the car. As always, I leaned over to give him a hug and a kiss. He stopped me in mid-lean.

“Dad, not in front of the school. But you can still hug me in the car.”


The following day, we were walking towards the mall when I felt his hand slip into mine. Surprised, I looked at my son. No longer my little boy, but now a boy rapidly heading towards manhood. A little taller, a little leaner, the voice just a touch deeper, moving away faster than I want but just as fast as he needs.

“Brendan, you know I love walking with you. But are you sure you want to keep holding hands when we walk together?”

“Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll never get too old for this.”

If only.


  1. Oh, that makes me cry. Thanks for this wonderful story.

  2. Love this one Howard! Oh the way they tug on our heartstrings.

  3. This one made me cry!!! They have to pull away in order to grow up, we all know that, but it doesn't make it any easier.