Sometimes (OK, frequently!) a wonderful blogger on this site raises an issue another of us has experienced. Such is the case with Louise’s Too Close for Comfort, and my response would have been too long for the comment section.
My 16 year-old Daniel doesn’t initiate holding hands with me anymore. I’ve trained him not to. And it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do.
I remember when he was in second grade in Slidell, LA, and we were waiting for the school bus. Another mom saw us holding hands and remarked, “I wish my son would hold my hand like that. He won’t anymore.” I don’t remember what I said, but I was thinking, “Yes, but your son probably has been and still is affectionate in a hundred other ways, and this is all I get or ever have gotten.” This is the undercurrent of grief in my life as a mom. Lack of love and affection from my son is a pain I can’t indulge very often. Like Louise, I felt hand-holding for Daniel was “a security issue,” but it wasn’t love-based. But that was OK! At least it was something. I desperately settled for the outward sign of attachment to me.
But when he was 13 and getting to be as tall as I am and still reaching out to hold my hand, I began training him not to for the same reasons Louise listed. I can’t even express how painful that was for me. So we started, as we always do, in baby steps. I was concerned about not belitting him for “little kid” behavior, so I asked for wisdom and used declarative vs. imperative with him. I gently disentangled his hand from mine and said, “You can hold my hand when we’re crossing the street.” We would walk a few steps, and he would reach for my hand again. I gently lifted his hand away and repeated “You can hold my hand when we’re crossing the street” or “We’re not crossing the street yet.” Oh, this hurts! It took several walks to change this habit. Then after awhile we started on “You’ll be safe crossing the street without holding my hand.”
So now he’s 16 and doesn’t hold my hand anymore. Mission accomplished. Hole in my heart. Lately, I’ve taken his hand a couple of times and he doesn’t pull away. Thank you for that, Lord.