Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
One of the benefits of having a school-age child is the reunion of sorts I get to have with my son on a daily basis. Every day at 3:15 p.m., I find myself excitedly anticipating seeing him and hearing all about the adventures of his day.
It was just such an occasion on a crisp autumn afternoon last week. My son's school dismissed, and I enthusiastically ran up to the building to greet him. When he spotted me, he returned my grin. I reached out my hand towards him … and his smile immediately disappeared.
“Moooooommmm,” he said as though mortified. “I cannot hold your hand!”
I drew my hand back and fought a frown. Apparently we had just reached the I'm-too-big-to-show-affection-in-public stage.
“So, can't hold your mom's hand in front of your friends, huh?” I asked as we headed toward the car.
“Well, yeah — they can't see me doing that,” he responded nonchalantly.
I was deflated. I knew this day would come eventually. I just didn't think it would be here … now.
I got him settled in the car, and, as we drove away, I looked at him in the rearview mirror. I discovered that if I squinted ever so slightly, he still looked like the baby I was used to him being. And then …
“Mom, can we stop for a burger and a shake? I'm starving!”
Clearly, he was not a baby anymore.
Later that night, as I recounted the incident to my husband, I could tell he was struggling to suppress a laugh.
“What is funny about this?” I asked indignantly. “This isn't funny!”
“He still loves you, he just wants to be ‘cool' in front of his friends,” my husband said with a chuckle. “I think it's hilarious. Don't you remember feeling that way?”
I thought back to my youth. As I did, I began to remember incidents such as pretending not to be walking with my parents in the mall, asking them to drop me off several blocks from my destination, and not claiming them at all during school events.
And suddenly, I saw the humor in the situation. I decided that this was my chance to be the “cool” mom I always said I would be.
So the next day, as I dropped my son off, I issued him a high five. When I picked him up that afternoon, I jaunted beside him without any overt signs of affection. This new routine felt foreign, but I was happy to show my son that I got it. I was never going to be one of those “embarrassing” moms.
The next morning, I walked my son to his classroom to help him carry a few extra supplies. I handed the bags to his teacher, and my son gave me a quick wave as he headed to his desk. I wanted to grab him for a hug, but I stopped myself. I waved back, and felt a pang in my heart as I turned to leave.
I was only about halfway down the hallway when I heard footsteps behind me.
I turned around to see my son running toward me.
“What did I forget?” I asked him.
He ran up and wrapped his arms around me.
“I love you, Mom,” he said.
As he pulled away, I didn't dare allow tears to come to my eyes.
“Have a great day!” I called out as he ran back to his room.
And as I walked through the school doors, I realized I had just had a moment that I would never, ever forget.