• Bye, Bye, Baby

    When A Son Gives Up Hand-Holding, It’s More Than Just Letting Go

    By Mary DiPalermo

    And so, it happened. The day I was dreading. My
    eight-year-old, dimple-faced boy dropped my hand yesterday as we approached his
    school. 

    It wasn’t as obvious a drop as my older son gave me when he
    was that age. I think he feigned a stretch or a shrug or a jacket-adjustment,
    when he decided he was too old to hold his mother’s hand in public. Whenever I
    tried to re-grasp his hand (thinking the loss of it must have been some kind of
    mistake), he kept it flat and lifeless like a fishmonger’s filet, with a
    decided lack of reciprocation. I got the message—over and out.

    At that time, I had a four-year-old and a baby in a
    stroller, so losing hold of my firstborn’s hand didn’t feel so traumatic. In
    fact, it probably felt freeing. Losing hold of my lastborn’s hand doesn’t feel
    as freeing, though. It feels like the end of an era. It feels like rain.

    As a woman who loves children (especially her own) I should,
    ironically, consider myself lucky. I had close to 15 years of holding little
    hands in mine. Walking my kids to school in the morning (except, I admit, for
    meltdown mornings) has given me some of the sweetest imprints of my life. I’ve
    loved the thoughts exchanged, the observations, the seriousness, the excitement
    of it all.

    Over the years, I’ve learned of mad crushes: “I get so
    nervous when he stands in our group at recess. Do you think that means I love
    him?” I’ve learned of hidden hurts: “I really miss Uncle Gary. I try not to
    think of him getting sick. It makes me so sad.” I’ve learned of how much we mean
    to each other: “I’m really glad you’re my mom, Mom.” All this while holding
    hands across a sequence of blocks.

    Now that I’m down to just one—the older two make their way
    to school without me—I think I’m walking slower. We never rush. We ease our way
    down Broadway. I’ll stop and fix his head of too-long, unruly blond hair. He’s
    often late. We’ve even been known to stop for donuts along the way and sit in
    the tiny shop window, people-watching until our last crumbs are consumed. This
    sort of behavior would never have happened a few years back.

    It’s probably melodrama now that makes me feel like losing a
    hand-hold means losing a life phase. And yet, it’s kind of true. My high-school
    son is off on his own more times than he’s home with us. On the rare occasions
    I catch hold of his hand, the size and feel of it shocks me. When did he grow
    up? My darling, middle-school daughter, who has a busier social calendar than
    her older brother, will grab my hand, from time to time, but it’s fleeting.
    Usually it’s just for emphasis, like when she’s retelling a day’s highlight or
    gushing about a new pair of shoes.

    And now my little guy is leaving. Well, he’s only in third
    grade, so he’s not going anywhere physically (not even to sleep-away camp), but
    he is making his move emotionally. There’s probably a very wise parenting
    expert out there who would tell me this is all good. It’s developmentally
    sound. But I think there are generations of parents before me who would agree
    that this moment really stings. The unclasping of the hand is yet another
    milestone. It’s what happens—it’s what has to happen—for your child to be able
    to walk away and become who he’s meant to become.

    I think I might cry. Or have an ice cream. I’ll be that
    woman, without a child by her side, at the Mr. Softee truck on 89th &
    Broadway.

    Mary DiPalermo, mom to
    an elementary-, a middle-, and a high-schooler, writes and shares her special
    parenting perspective on
    New
    York Family’s
    blog “Parenting in
    Progress
    .” She lives on the Upper West Side.

    Bye, Bye, Baby.

    Moving On To The Next Phase of Operations.

    By Mary DiPalermo


    And so, it happened. The day I was dreading. My eight year-old, dimple-faced boy dropped my hand yesterday as we approached his school.

    It wasn’t as obvious a drop as my older son gave me when he was that age. I think he feigned a stretch or a shrug or a jacket-adjustment, when he decided he was too old to hold his mother’s hand in public. At that time, I had a four-year old and a baby in a stroller, so losing hold of my firstborn’s hand didn’t feel so traumatic. In fact, it probably felt freeing.

    Losing hold of my lastborn’s hand doesn’t feel as freeing, though. It feels like an era is ending. It feels like rain.

    As a woman who loves children, especially her own children, I should consider myself lucky. I had about 15 years of holding little hands in mine. Walking my kids to school in the morning (except, I admit, for meltdown mornings) has given me some of the sweetest memory imprints of my life. I have loved the thoughts exchanged, the observations; the seriousness, the excitement.

    It’s probably melodrama now that makes me feel like losing a hand-hold means losing a life phase. But, it’s kind of true. My high-school son is off on his own more times than he’s home. On the rare occasions I catch hold of his hand, the size and feel of it shocks me. When did he grow up? My darling, middle-school daughter, who has a busier social calendar than her older brother, will grab my hand, from time to time, but it’s fleeting. Usually it’s just for emphasis, like when she’s retelling a friendship highlight or gushing about a new pair of shoes.

    And now my little guy is leaving. Well, he’s only in third grade, so he’s not going anywhere physically (not even to sleep away camp), but he is making his move emotionally. There’s probably a very wise parenting expert out there who would tell me this is all good. It’s developmentally sound. But I think there are generations of parents before me who would agree that this moment really stings. The unclasping of the hand is yet another milestone. It’s what happens, it’s what has to happen, for your child to be able to walk away and become who he’s meant to become.


    I think I might cry. Or have an ice cream. I’ll be that woman, without a child by her side, at the Mr. Softee truck on 89th & Broadway.