When Christopher, now 22, was about 15, I noticed a change in his behaviour toward me. Already towering over me, he’d amble past and catch me in a bear hug. With my feet high over the floor, he’d laugh and call me Little Mom, even –especially – if someone was watching. I would sternly tell him to put me down, but when your feet are dangling uselessly and your arms are clamped to your sides, you lose a little of your authority and most of your dignity.
I can tell if Ari, 19, calls and has friends within earshot. He conducts his side of the conversation like he’s called an insurance hotline.
“This is Ari. I was just wondering if you knew the next time you might be headed up this way, and if I could arrange a ride home,” he will ask.
“I love you, baby! Are you eating okay? Did you remember your gloves? It’s supposed to get even colder. How come you never call me very often anymore?”
“This is why.”
Both went through their thorough aversion to public hugs, at least by their mother. Christopher was a Velcro kid at preschool – the teacher would firmly peel him from my arms as I walked away weeping while he forgot me by the time he got to the sand table. Ari was far easier, though he also spent the first three years of his life believing his name was Just a Minute.
When I take Ari back up to school, he stuffs the back of the car with laundry and groceries. Every time, I offer to help him schlep everything to his room. He has to go through three doors and down a long hallway. He’ll glance around, consider the four trips it will take without my help, and usually acquiesce. I pretend I don’t see him moving swiftly ahead, eyes tracking back and forth looking for landmines, or someone he knows. I’ve also, however, discovered how to get a hug.
“Well, I guess that’s the last load,” I’ll say, standing in front of him. “Want me to help you put things away and tidy up?”
I get a big hug every time as he waltzes me out the door. He thinks he’s won.
They both know more than I do. They maintain the computers, buy their own clothes and often do the grocery shopping. They don’t need me to tell them when it’s garbage day and nobody cries when I drop them off at school.
As we finished up some errands last week, Christopher announced he would like to try a certain beer. Christopher does not drink beer. “I’ll just get a six pack. Wait. I don’t have my debit card,” he said, looking at me.
“I’ll loan it to you. How much?”
I rarely buy beer, so I just opened my wallet and pulled out several of those new plastic bills I hate so much. “Here.” I stuffed them at him.
“’I would like to buy some beer, please, I have this many monies,’” he said in a tiny voice, making fun of me.
“Shut up. It’s that or nothing.”
Ten minutes later, he emerged with a box of beer, looking sheepish.
“I thought you were only getting six.”
“I asked for six, and they didn’t carry a six pack. The guy asked me what I wanted to do. I actually just opened my wallet and showed him how many monies I had, and he said I had enough for a twelve,” he laughed. “I felt like a little kid.”
Still my little kid.