It’s happened. Not too long ago my son, all of seven years old, asked me if he could call me “Dad” instead of “Daddy”. He even had the temerity to ask me to refrain from calling myself “Daddy” in public. His shame would be irreversible he assured me. I should have known it was coming; I’d seen signs for some time. Earlier in the year I was walking past his classroom and called out to him and waved. He looked up briefly but dropped his eyes quickly and kept his hands on his desk. The boy sitting next to him happily waved back to me and gave me a huge grin. If that wasn’t enough, some time ago I told him that I loved him and, no kidding, his response was “uh okay, thanks.” Ugh, that smarts.
Yes, I know; all of this is supposed to happen but it doesn’t dull the pain of cold, hard realization. My son is growing up and it’s happening faster than I thought possible. He’s developing a sense of self and independence; he’s taking the first tentative steps into a world without me. It’s normal, it’s undoubtedly healthy but it’s killing me. There was a time when he was such a tender, affectionate boy. Now I get armless hugs and disdainful moans when I hold him a few seconds too long. Still, sometimes I see a glimpse of the boy that was. Tonight he asked me to help him with a Poptropica puzzle. We worked on the solution together and after I prodded he begrudgingly gave me a “thank you”. Then, for a second, he flashed me the smile. It was the real deal–full of love, appreciation and happiness. Nowadays these little moments are fleeting but they confirm that the little boy is still in there somewhere. It’s not a lot but I’ll take every single one of them.