I sat in a dark room this evening, cradling my small daughter in my lap. Her hand flitted back and forth between the stuffed animal clutched to her chest and the various features of my face, the names of which she is only beginning to learn. On a whim, I grabbed the straying hand and held it against my collar. She let it stay there for about thirty seconds, a small record for this perpetually moving child.
I thought about how both of my children, when they were infants, grasped one of my fingers with an entire hand, holding on as if their very lives depended upon it. My friend’s baby has such a strong grip that, when she grabs hold, her mother can lift her entire body off of the ground.
When my older son was learning to walk, I gave him “skyhooks”—one finger for each hand—so that he could learn to balance. Now my daughter is in that stage. At sixteen months, she should already be walking—and she can. She just isn’t ready to let go yet; so I hold her hands and wait.
When his sister was a baby, my son didn’t understand why I couldn’t carry them both at the same time. He asked to be picked up, and I told him, “I can’t carry you, but I’ll hold your hand.” Eventually, this became an acceptable substitute. And after that, although I didn’t notice when, he stopped holding my finger, and started holding my whole hand.
I know it won’t last. Sometime around my early teenage years, I remember being too embarrassed to hold hands with my parents anymore. I was just as embarrassed, of course, to hold hands with a boy, but it was for a different reason altogether. And even when my husband and I were dating, we kissed before we held hands. Among the landmarks on the journey toward a long-term relationship, holding hands was just a hair’s breadth away from dating exclusively.
I believe in holding hands. It’s more than a sign of affection. For my children, my husband, and for me, it’s support, reassurance, protection, and guidance. And it’s a sense of belonging. I believe that when you hold someone’s hand, they belong with you—not to you, just with you. So it doesn’t matter who comes into our family, or where our family takes those who come into it. I’m grateful that my children hold my hands, for however long it lasts.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.