May 26, 2016, 8:25 am: straightened his tie before school on 8th grade promotion day
June 15, 2015, 2:30 pm: my arm rested against his in the overcrowded car after we bought a new climbing tower for the cats
November 20, 2014, 7:45 pm: our jackets touched when he let me take a ‘selfie’ together at the Catching Fire movie premiere
March 28, 2014, 6:10 am: I moved his hair aside to examine a head wound after he fainted and cut his head open on a door frame
These are the most recent times I have touched my child.
I can’t remember the exact date & time of our last hug, or the last time I kissed his face. I know somewhere in between I gave him a few home haircuts, which meant at least 30 minutes that I could get away with touching his hair. And sometimes, I’d pretend to brush something off his shoulder when he passed me in the kitchen, but he didn’t like that and saw right through my ruse. But I cherished those brief touches.
Sometime around 2010 he started standing as far away as possible from his siblings in pictures. I only know it’s 2010 from looking at the photo albums. We didn’t know why he didn’t want to be touched, but we knew that it caused him great distress. Then about a month ago, when he was patiently helping Bear with her math, he was standing right behind her and she leaned back in her chair. “Stay still!” he admonished her. “It causes me actual physical pain when you do that.” Oh.
Every so often I recall that night in the hospital, when he was 4 days old and dangerously dehydrated because I was producing absolutely zero breast milk. They had him in a closed incubator with a light for the jaundice, and I wasn’t supposed to take him out for any reason. The nurse walked in with a bottle to feed him and my heart leapt–I wanted to hold my newborn baby and this was my chance. But then she walked away with him; took him out of the room even, to feed him; brushed off my requests to feed my own baby.
Now, when this memory pops up, I feel irrational anger as I realize she stole those touches from me. I’m angry at her for not trusting me, but I’m even more angry at myself for not insisting more forcefully. And I feel sadness because I now know just how precious those touches were.
The other day on Facebook, another mother posted a photo of she and her teenage son embracing. I “liked” it, because it was a sweet photo. Then I struggled to tamp down the jealousy I could feel bubbling to the surface.
I only share all of these thoughts because they are inside me and it feels good to let them out. And yet, I am thankful. He is healthy. My arms may ache, but he is here and alive. So many don’t have that luxury.
He has friends. He’s kind and helpful and we have a secret look we share when we think the Littles are being ridiculous. We share a love for literature, and baking, and writing. We have the same hair and the same nose. Sometimes, if I say something funny, I am rewarded with a sideways smile he cannot repress no matter how hard he tries.
And I have hope. I know that holding him in my arms again is…possible. Until then, my other children seem to sense when I need them, and come to my rescue with tight squeezes. “Don’t worry,” said Hank when I was holding on to him for a little too long the other day. “I won’t ever grow out of this.”