Bartleby with a Heart

At 2:45 PM Monday through Friday, students pour out the door of my sons’ elementary school.  Edgar is usually first.  He hands off his substantial backpack to me then jumps into my arms–literally–stopping for a very public hug and kiss prior to rounding the corner to visit his favorite tree or walk up the stairs of the fire escape.

Oscar is next.  He comes out–cool and collected, often sporting a premature adolescent scowl.  I reach for his hand.  He doesn’t reach back.  I put my arm around his shoulder–barely perceptible from my perspective.  He ducks and creates a bit of distance between us.

I can read his signals, and I can sense his preferences.  But still I have to ask.  To the casual observer, only one of the two children I am picking up at this time seems to be the recipient of any kind of public maternal affection.

So I pose the question–though I know the answer.

“Oscar, how do you feel about my hugging you or holding your hand when I pick you up from school?”

In classic Bartleby fashion, he says, “I’d prefer that you not.  Not in front of my friends.”

I tell him that it’s okay, that I understand; then I add that I want him to know that when I see him at the end of a long day I am hugging him a thousand times in my heart.

He turns to me, looks into my eyes, and says, “You know, once we get to the car, you can hug me and kiss me all you want.  Okay?”


It couldn’t be more okay.


5 thoughts on “Bartleby with a Heart

  1. Does he realize what he’s missing?
    It’s good practice to add a gesture to hello and good-bye if he feels it and pooh pooh on the judges.
    As nice as it is to respect his wishes, what about yours?
    What about how he’ll treat a friend?
    Why should he feel self-conscious?
    I’d revisit it–more often maybe.

  2. It made me smile. So sweet. I still hug and kiss Alex in public, when I pick him up from his afternoon program at school and when I put him on the school bus every morning. I give him a goodbye kiss and a hug in front of the bus and it is OK for him. Today we walked to town with him hand in hand and I saw a couple people smiling at us as they saw us holding hands. I soooo enjoy those moments with my son I wish they would last for a long, long time.

  3. I think that’s a pretty awesome way of describing how you feel when you see your children. I think it’s equally awesome that you respect his wishes and still get your hugs and kisses. It’s hard being a kid! 🙂 Love your blog. My husband and I are starting the process of adopting a child and your blog gives me inspiration. Thank you.

  4. It won’t be long before he ‘graduates’ from this stage of wanting to please his peers. He will be the one hugging and kissing you and wanting the whole world to see it.

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