My son, my oldest child, is 7 1/2 years old and a rising second grader. For his entire life, he has always been the child who would never stray far from me, loves cuddles and physical contact. And he has stopped holding my hand in public.
Since his toddler years, our rule has been that hands must be held while walking in parking lots, crossing streets, or at any other time there might be a danger. There’s no doubt it provides a convenient way to keep track of my kids, but more than that, I simply enjoy holding my children’s hands. I often reach for them just walking through stores, or in the zoo, or wherever we happen to be. It gives a physical presence, which in turn creates a positive emotional atmosphere. I’ve never spanked my kids, so there’s never been any instance of negative touch between our kids and their parents, but the hand-holding is a positive touch I particularly enjoy. Not that I don’t enjoy the hugs and kisses and cuddles and bedtime snuggles, but hand-holding provides an intimate atmosphere in a place where other forms of physical parent-child intimacy is not feasible.
Nothing is changing at home; he still curls into my lap at all opportunities, gives me hugs, will happily snuggle with me on the couch, and loves our bedtime ritual of cuddles and a story in his bed. But the public hand-holding is clear; I’ll habitually reach for his hand, and he’ll keep it to his side and make a tiny groan of protest. I’ve begun putting my hand on his back or around his shoulders, and he seems to have no problem with that. Oftentimes, he will go to younger sister’s other side and grab her free hand. I’m sure he sees this not as holding hands for the mere pleasure of it, but rather as helping keep his sister safe.
I’m sure this objection is his first of many more to come as he gets older. And while I will always respect his wishes, for the first time I find myself wondering if his cuddling little boy days are closer to the end then they are to the beginning, and reflecting on how parenting changes as the kids grow.
How do you ways to maintain contact as your kids grow up while not embarrassing them to death?