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The end of public kisses: leaving a part of parenthood behind.

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  October 10, 2012 12:45 PM

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My seven-year-old son and I had a milestone moment this morning.

I was dropping him off at the before-school program. As we approached the classroom, he stopped me. He stood in front of me, gave me a hug, and reached his face up for me to kiss.

It took me a second to realize what was happening. "You want me to kiss you goodbye here, not in the classroom?" I asked. Liam nodded. So I took a breath, kissed him, and brought him into the classroom where he dumped his backpack and ran to his friends, not looking back.

I know where this goes. It's happened to me four times before, with my older children. Self-consciousness sets in, the need to be cool...and the need to separate. Not completely--I'm sure Liam will still be snuggly when we read a book tonight--but we have turned an important corner. It's not a surprise, of course--I've been lucky to get public kisses this long. 

But he's my last. I'm leaving a part of parenthood behind forever.

I like having older children, don't get me wrong (my eldest two are 21 and 20). It's exciting and fascinating to watch their lives unfold, and to begin to have new and different relationships with them, to be friends in ways that weren't possible when they were younger. And although it feels very strange to say this, I'm looking forward to having grandchildren (in case Michaela or Zack is reading this: I can totally wait a few years, guys). 

And young children can be plain old exhausting. There is so much they need you to do for them, and while lots of it is fun, lots of it isn't (like diapers and generally cleaning up after them). As each of my children has grown older and more independent, it's been a relief.

But there's something lost.

This morning when I went to wake Liam up, I climbed in bed with him just to smell his sweet smell and feel his luscious warmth. His arms unconsciously reached for me, his eyes still closed; he was more baby than boy. There is such magic in that--and in the marvelous time of childhood when real and imagined mix, when silly dancing in the store is totally fine and puddles are expressly for jumping in, when curled up in my arms is the best place in the world to be.

I will miss that terribly.


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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