My oldest son sat down next to me recently and told me that he had a girlfriend. A girlfriend. As in, a female other than his mother. As in, he’s taking another step toward adulthood, away from me.
This boy who used to hold my hand is now interested in holding her hand. I remember his tiny fist grasping my finger as I nursed him at my breast; holding onto my thumbs as he learned to stand and balance. Soon we were holding hands as he learned to take his first steps, and then when he was older and we were crossing the street. Both of us cried the first day of school when we both realized—I need to let go.
He’s never really outgrown holding my hand, this boy of mine. Now, when we cross the street, he holds my hand to make sure I make it across safely—the tables turned! Or, when I’m sitting quietly, perhaps sadly, a quick touch of comfort, one hand to another. During family prayer, each member of the family clasping hands, I will feel his hand squeeze mine quickly, three times—”I love you!”
When he spoke of this girl, trying to convey her essence to me, he had the look that every mother knows will come, but hopes will come later: the look that says he’s fallen in love with somebody. Somebody else. Somebody not me.
I try to listen to him, to hear him, to understand him, but niggling at the back of my mind and my heart is that this girl, this Jezebel, is enticing my son. Only, she doesn’t sound like a Jezebel … “I like her because she has a positive attitude. I like her because she is smart and can talk about things besides other people. And Mom, she laughs at my jokes! She thinks I’m funny, and that’s big to me. And, she’s pretty.”
I want to caution him, “Be careful not to show too much”; “Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve!”; “You’re not really in love; this is just infatuation.” But then, what am I telling him? Don’t give your whole heart? That you can’t trust your feelings? I don’t want to see his heart broken, bruised, as it surely will be, but I don’t want to teach him to be emotionally constipated, to hold back and not sure learn to love deeply, truly, wholly. So, I keep my mouth shut, my cautions silent, and bite my tongue.
A few days ago, he came to me again, a quick smile, a touch on my hand as he rested his head on my shoulder. “Don’t worry Mom, I’ll always love you best.” Temporary reassurance, though I know there will come a day when this will no longer be true, when there will be somebody who consumes his every waking moment, somebody who will understand his every thought, his every wish, his every hope and dream.
I want all that for him, and more, but not yet. I want to hold his hand a little bit longer, if he’ll let me.