Friday, September 4, 2009

Watching Them Fly

My kids were raised with a lot of loving touches; hugs, kisses, caresses and cuddling. Like any child they thrived on the intimacy but it surprised me in how much it nurtured me as well. Something about the unconditional exchange between a parent and child feeds the soul of both. We may have many loving relationships in our lives but there is something about the touch of your child’s hand on your face that won’t be found anywhere else.

My children are 18 and 11 now, the elder (my daughter) still hugs but with a busy life and a husband she is now my fellow adult. Her husband is loving and I know she is well taken care of, getting ample hugs and kisses. My son has begun his life as a young man and is not currently comfortable with hugs and kisses. While the hugs are rare we are close in communication.

I may, someday, have another child in my life; grandchildren, honorary grandchildren, etc. but, for now, the lack of touch can make me feel sad. Not a sadness of desperation, but more of a bitter sweet wistfulness. It’s a subtle ache which occupies a rightful place next to the satisfaction of having loved and raised a child.

It is a curious thing that children enter our lives and demand that we put our little “Me, Me, Me Party” away and take care of them. They trust us, depend on us thus lighting the dormant nurturer who hollows out a space in our hearts that only will only be filled by that child. What we don’t realize is that the fondness we develop for the touch and nearness of our children won’t expire with their independence. That space we opened up for them in our souls won’t ever close, it remains and it is part of what we unwittingly took on with our decision to raise a child. Having watched parents who bemoaned their child’s independence I swore that that would never be me. And, while I try to never pull back on my kids as they set out further from me, there is a voice inside saying, “Where is my little one?“

The most surprising aspect of all this is that it is a little painful (sometimes a lot) it feels right. My experience isn’t new; for as long as we have history, parents have been through the same thing. It’s my role to miss the little girl and boy and it’s theirs to not understand, unless or when they have children of their own. Perhaps this is how we, as adults begin to see our own parents for who they were. Perhaps we appreciate them with more depth because we get a glimpse of the intimacy they miss with us. And perhaps we understand our own value; the people our parents loved and cared for.