It’s 5:00 pm. I am running late for my son’s 5:15 pm check-up, as usual, and all of me, eight months pregnant belly, stuffed-to-capacity purse and two and half inch heels (I know I should know better), is bounding into daycare prepared to exchange very brief pleasantries with my son’s providers and snatch him up before running out the daycare door. I enter his classroom and my plans are thwarted by my son elbow deep in finger pant, painting a picture of his recent favorite muse: his penis.
He looks up at me smiling and runs over for his hug and kiss. His teachers laugh as I kiss the top of his curly hair, narrowly avoiding yellow hand prints on my suit skirt and I direct him to the bathroom to wash his hands. Accepting my late fate, I lower myself down to one of the kiddie chairs for a few deep breaths and wait for him to finish up.
He emerges, declares he is all clean and runs to give each of his teachers a big hug before we leave for the day.
“Isaiah…” one of his teachers says as we head to the door. He turns.
“Don’t you want to give Julie a hug?”
A little dark haired girl turns around from a sea of blocks and raises her arms. My two and a half year old runs into her waiting arms. They exchange a very long embrace.
“Awww…” we all sing in unison. I can’t even get mad as the clocks hits 5:15pm. Then, just as we conclude our song, we watch as my son lowers his hand to Julie’s little waist and leans in for a kiss.
The teachers and I gasp in unison and then end in an awkward laugh.
“Isaiah!” I exclaim, tugging his little hand. He looks at me wide eyed and concerned. I soften my gaze and remind him, “We ask for kisses and hugs, pickle.” He nods.
“I am not ready for this.” I joke with his teachers. They laugh.
I am really not.
This past Saturday, it was asking a little girl named Gabby at the park if she wanted to meet his Grandma which led to an hour long courtship and ended in her kissing him on the cheek and wiping dirt off of him when he fell off the swing. Last week, it was Madeline, a little girl at a daycare we visited. They embraced for what seemed like a full minute before we left and my little man said, “I’ll miss you.”
Everywhere we go, my son finds a little girl to hug and attach to.
And I know it is all my fault.
I am a romantic.
Yes, I said it.
I grew up memorizing the words to sappy movies like Dirty Dancing and dreaming to the beat of Boyz II Men and Babyface. In college, my girlfriends and I would have movie nights that almost inevitably involved movies like Love Jones and Love and Basketball.
You know. Movies that ended in kisses and vows. Long before I knew love, I loved the idea of love: sharing a connection with someone no one else shared and building lives and dreams all based on an unexplainable chemistry and decision of commitment.
Of course, what I grew to know of love grew me up a bit. Sometimes you can love someone and they don’t love you back. Sometimes you fall in love with someone who wants to love you but they just don’t know how. Sometimes you can fall in love with someone and they can fall in love with you but you both know it just wouldn’t be right. And sometimes, all the stars align, you both commit to one another and life just gets in the way.
When I met my husband he was completely outside of my radar. I was from New York. He was from North Carolina. I still wore Timberlands on winter days. He went barefoot on summer ones. I was used to guys who called me “Boo” and he said things like, “Sweetheart.” When he asked me out for the first time, I was sure we would not have chemistry but he was a gentleman, he was charming and he left me glad I had went down a road I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Us married gals know marriage is not easy so I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the seven years since have not been sunshine and light. The adult, post-dirty dancing part of me wishes that someone would finally make a romantic movie that begins with a first kiss because the real love most certainly begins after you make it through that first rough patch. The one where everything in you wants to give up but you fight anyway.
Nonetheless, love is in my air. My adult, still-watch-dirty-dancing-when-it-comes-on-television side loves to see my son witness the love between my husband and me.
Now, don’t call child services.
What I mean is, I like that my son beams when he catches my husband and I in a kiss or embrace and it is almost inevitably followed by him saying, “I want to kiss, Mommy” or “I want to kiss, Daddy.” We find it nothing short of delicious.
But how do I begin to teach my almost three year old about the appropriateness of that affection? How do I articulate that very important lesson that not everyone wants kisses and hugs? How do I teach a two year old about the boundaries of personal space? More importantly, in an age where school officials are offering condoms to first graders and leading condom manufacturers are making extra small condoms for twelve year old boys, how do I begin to make him understand that there is a very fine line between what is cute and innocent and what is sexual and intimate? I know my son’s kisses and hugs are innocent. However, I also know that as a young black boy, who also happens to be very tall for his age, the time for the outside world to see it that way is very short lived. So, what do you think Moms of Hue? How do we teach our young children about the appropriateness of affection without upsetting their innocence and being the first to break their little hearts?