My son is all of a sudden anti-PDA. What happened?
Sarah Bowman: My husband thought I babied him, but my son was known for the hug. Whether an old friend and neighbor, his third-grade teachers, or just plain old mom, he was never shy about opening his arms -- and with a generous smile, snuggling right up for the type of hug that makes Leo Buscaglia ecstatic. His morning snuggles and the easy squeeze, whenever and wherever, are a natural part of my day.
Until last week.
Suddenly I can't clap him on the knee during a normal conversation. I can no longer grab him around the shoulders and pull him in for a kiss on the head. "Mom, that's just weird," he'll inform me, if I touch him at all! And this is not just the don't-give-me-affection-in-public stage (I've been there, I get that). He resists his father and me touching him at home, in the car, or at the dinner table. Message received!
He's an eighth grader, nearly 14 years old, and has a cell phone that buzzes all day long. I suspect that many of the messages are from girls, for he gets a secretive posture during about half of these encounters. When his buddies text him, he grins widely and tells me something they say -- when they're coming over, or what they're doing at the moment. A mother knows the difference. I'm glad his social circle is expanding and that he's found a group that he enjoys -- his friends are big, athletic boys, who hang at our house and eat ... and giggle. We love having them around.
When the day is over, I am still allowed to massage his back as he falls asleep. I know it's important to "stay in touch" with him -- he still needs that parental assurance. He's differentiating from me and from his father, right on schedule, focused more on his peers than on his family -- and our job is to take it in stride, all the while reminding him that we are ever steady. A friend with an older son told me she would find a way to bump into her teenager and hug him on a regular basis, at least for the few years when he threw her off. My boy isn't a baby anymore, and has effectively delivered a clear message about how he wants affection from us. But that doesn't mean he doesn't want us to keep throwing love his way.
|Sarah Bowman is the Co-Founder of Kids Off the Couch.com. She has a BA in Semiotics from Brown University, worked in the film business as a studio executive before becoming a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, and two teenagers.|