Something has happened which I wasn’t anticipating for a while yet. I mean, I knew it would come eventually, but this soon?
Yes, my almost eight-year-old has become mortified by cuddles. I remember my own mam saying something when they were babies, about how eventually they become not so keen on getting squeezed and nuzzled. Of course, that makes sense, and I guess it is a bit mortifying when you’re nearly eight. The thing is that it seems to have happened overnight.
I mean, from being born he wasn’t one for squishy cuddles- he always loved to be held facing out over. He was nosy and loved engaging with the world. He never sat still for long. So hugs were always grabbed when the opportunity arose, before he was off again. He always hugged back; with pudgy little arms in the early years, more recently with the muck and scratches that seem a permanent fixture on those growing arms.
These last few days, I’ve noticed that when I chase him to scoop him up in my arms, he’s different. He pauses, leans into me, lets me squeeze. But doesn’t squeeze back. He smiles, there’s love and affection, and then he runs off to continue what he’s doing. Imagine my confusion. I’ve taken to following him around like a needy puppy, grabbing hugs and hoping that it’s a phase. ‘Love me!’ I want to whine. ‘I’m your mama, you’re only a baby!’ Then I look at him, and I see he’s not. His floppy hair hangs over his eyes, and he brushes it back. He’s wearing some kind of character t-shirt. Cargo shorts. Trainers. He’s asking for my laptop to research his homework. He’s growing fast and although he’s always going to be my baby, he’s no longer a baby.
I have to let him grow up. I remember a boy in our school who we ribbed relentlessly on a weekend trip to an outdoor centre. Why? As the minibus pulled away, through tears his mum yelled ‘I love you! I’ve packed spare underpants! Remember to blow your nose!’ All of our parents were probably fighting back tears, finding themselves with a lump in their throat as their babies were sent off into the world-albeit in a safe, controlled and Ofsted regulated way. But this lady, she was full on ugly crying. I know now just how she felt. But at the time, that was comedy gold for a bus full of schoolkids who just wanted to fit in and not be the one that was different. So, we were merciless in our taunting. Before I feel too bad about it all, I remember that we all have our crosses to bear. Chris may have been laughed at for his overprotective mother, but I became the target later that weekend when I refused to sleep near the window. In case the headless horseman knocked on it…
So after my latest half-hug I asked ‘have you gone off hugs? Don’t you like them anymore?’
‘I do like them mam, it’s just.. the cartoons are on! I still love you though. More than the cartoons and everything.’ So wow, he loves me more than cartoons, and he really loves watching cartoons. So I guess we are good. And as I tuck him in, he asks for a back rub, and a tickle on his hand, something we’ve done since the baby days. So underneath the noise and the mayhem and muck and enthusiasm, my little boy still needs me.
Anyway, it’ll be ok… I still have my littlest one. Who is the cuddliest, kissiest, squeeziest little peach you’ve ever met. Since birth he loved being right near me, on me, always in my arms or in a sling. I have a feeling that he’s gonna be hugging me for a long time to come…