My mother wasn’t a touchy-feely kinda mom at all. I mean, she gave a kiss or two here and there if you were saying goodnight or heading off to a sleepover or something, but all that hugging and smooching and laying in the lap and stuff? Yeah, not so much. She loved me, no doubt. But she wasn’t loving.
And really, that was okay, because I had my Dad for the handholding and the skipping and the giggling and stuff. The man just loves kids, but he absolutely adored me reminded me every time he folded me into his strapping embrace his heartbeat keeping time with mine or held my hand while we strolled through the mall, licking on strawberry and butter pecan ice cream cones, my tiny feet keeping double time to match his stride.
He lived to make me laugh. And feel loved.
And I did.
And I do.
And I promised myself that when I became a mother, I’d extend the warm and fuzzy to my babies because kissing on them and hugging on them and loving them up was, thanks to my daddy, as natural and beautiful as summer rain.
So with that pretty vision of rainbows and stars and hearts and whatnot dancing in your head, try to help me understand how in the hell I ended up here:
(The parking lot of our local Kroger)
Me: (reaching out for the hand of my 10-year-old, Mari)
Mari: (looking down at said hand, as if it’s a steaming pile of poo)
Me: What, you don’t want to hold my hand?
Mari: Um I don’t care if I hold your hand or not. (She stiffly holds out her digits for her mom’s pleasure.) But if I see someone I know, I’m gonna have to let it go.
Me: (A silent, “Well damn.”)
(The pasta aisle in our local Kroger)
Me: Aw shucks, that’s my jam! (Insert image of me snapping my fingers and bopping to Stevie Wonder’s “As.”)
Mari: (Whipping her head around like she’s a spy straight out of a scene of Mission Impossible…) Mommy! Stop!
Me: What? What’s wrong?
Mari: You’re dancing (she tugs at my arm).
Me: (Looking down at my arm like she just sliced it with a knife) What? Dang, I can’t dance now, either? It’s. Stevie. It’s, like, on the law books that you have to dance when Stevie’s on.
Mari: Mommy, please stop. Please? (Her eyes darting, trying hard to hold on to that giggle. A trickle of it escapes.)
Me: (Insert image of me pushing the cart aside and cabbage patching and wopping it out, center aisle.)
Yeah, I did it. Yeah, she was embarrassed as all get out. And yeah, I think when she gets older and has her own children and gets to reflecting on the kind of mother she wants to be — the cold one who rations out hugs and kisses or the warm one who busts moves in the pasta aisle — she might remember those moments when I took her hand in mine and I broke a sweat trying to make her laugh. When her mother tried to paint the picture of her childhood with rainbows and stars and hearts.
And she just might hold her own daughter’s hand a little tighter in the parking lot, even in front of judgmental fifth graders, or dance for her — no matter who’s watching.
Because this is how it should be.
Note: This piece originally was written for my column at Parenting.com’s The Parenting Post. To see the rest of my columns there and to enjoy great mom-to-mom advice on raising children, CLICK HERE.