Late last night as my oldest son, who just turned 11 this week, said the routine “goodnight,“ he grabbed my hand, held it up to his own and compared the size. He excitedly said, “Mom, my hands are bigger than yours!”
While I do not think this is technically true (if only because my nails outshine his by a long shot), our hands are dangerously close in size, and his will no doubt surpass mine in a short time. I was in no rush to break the bond our hands held. As I looked down at my son’s swiftly growing hand, I was nostalgically transported back in time.
The first time I held this child. He was placed upon my chest after living in my body for nearly 10 months. I reveled at his size, his face, the perfect shape of his little body. I counted all his fingers and toes. I looked into his eyes, eyes that mirrored my own. I held his little hands. Those tiny hands, just a fraction of mine. His grip becoming stronger with each passing day, coiling around my thumb or pointer finger when I gazed deeply into those baby blues that still captivate me 11 years later.
That same hand I held when I dropped him off for preschool nearly eight years ago.
Tears in both of our eyes as he was frightened of being separated from his mother. I was just as frightened, thinking of all that could go wrong in my absence. It was a gut-wrenching, emotionally torturous day when I walked away from that little boy, staring after me, wondering if I would come back, and why I was leaving in the first place.
Then came kindergarten. Me on one side of that little man, his dad on the other. Each holding his little hands in our own. Walking him to his first classroom, taking pictures at his “big boy” desk, heads shaking, wondering how we got to this place. Wasn’t he just a wobbly toddler learning to walk? And now, with sights set on questioning the world around him and gracefully leaving his mark, his education had begun. The waning phase, growing up, growing away, becoming his own person—the journey started on that very first day of kindergarten.
I gave him a suffocating momma bear hug and grabbed his little hand one last time, a tear in my eye as I said, “I’ll see you soon!” and walked away, silently praying he would be OK without his momma.
Or, more accurately, I would be OK without the biggest part of my heart for the duration of the day.
Each year that passed told the same story—first, then second, third came after, and finally, fourth grade. All attempting to hold that little hand, gaining growth and potential every passing day. His desire to hold his mother’s hand waning more and more. My desire increasing, but with the self-discipline to give him the growing space he needed.
Those little hands. The hands I held when he was a baby, ingesting his first taste of peanut butter. Little did we know of his severe allergy that landed us at Urgent Care, scraping 10 to 15 years of life from his mom and dad due to the fear we suffered, thinking the worst. Gaining an education in how severe and scary everyday food allergies can be.
Those perfect hands that held a basketball when he was five years old. How big that ball seemed! How small my little boy appeared. And now, those same hands, holding the basketball like he was born to dribble, shoot, pass, score, and fly down the court, passionately doing what he loves.
Those little hands learning to ride a bike. shaking with anticipation.
The excitement his face revealed when he pedaled several yards without falling. Those big boy hands now riding a bike like it is nothing. Twisting and turning the handlebars, gaining momentum with each downhill grade, the confidence of an Olympian traveling down the trail with his little brother and mother faithfully bringing up the rear.
Those baby hands first learning how to pray. Folded preciously, one over the other as he laid in his little boy bed and talked to a Jesus he learned about in Sunday School.
Those tiny hands, holding my heart without one single touch.
Those little hands have changed so much over time. My own hands have not changed all that much, but I know they will. The process is slow but inevitable. Our hands are nearly the same at this point. In no time at all, his will be much larger than my own. Rather than me offering assurance, protection, and love with my hand gently cradling his, it will be him leading me to funerals, holding me as I cry, charting new and unfamiliar territory, and possibly lying in a hospital bed or nursing home. It will be my son’s hands that comfort, protect, and gently offer the encouragement to know I am loved and never alone.
The hands that stood the test of time. One hand smaller, wrinkled, worn, with numerous stories to tell. The other larger, masculine, perfectly tanned, and showing signs of hard work, deep study, and tales of the life of a little boy turned into a man. My hands will faithfully rest in his until my last day, just as his have always sweetly rested in mine from his very first day.