Caleb, age 5, comes in to our bedroom almost every morning. He drops a kiss on my nose and then clambers into bed, nuzzling in close. Sometimes snuggle lasts only a few minutes, sometimes it’s a half-hour, depending on the day. I love feeling his sturdy body, still warm and smelling a bit like toast, love the egg-shaped curve of his skull under my chin and the steady rise and fall of his breathing.

Then, of course, he bullets out of bed, grinding his elbow into my solar plexus as he struggles out from under the covers to find his brother and start building new lego weapons of mass destruction.

How much longer, I wonder, will these morning snuggles continue? Liam occasionally graces us with our presence, usually on the weekend, and then we have about 4.5 minutes of family togetherness before the boys start wrestling, or someone pulls the covers off someone else, or the lure of legos proves too strong and both boys bolt out of bed to start building the morning project.

Even though he doesn’t snuggle much, Liam still sits on my lap or curls up next to me on the couch. But each time he does, I wonder if it’s the last time. He’s small for his age, so he still fits comfortably on my lap (mostly)–but he’s nine, and I know that the murky waters of pre-adolescence are about to close over his head. As it is, I have to give him his good-bye kiss on school mornings a good twenty feet from the door of the school.

Is it easier for the mothers of girls to stay physically close to their daughters? Probably not, although from my perspective, it certainly looks that way. It just seems easier for girls, as they grow up, to continue to hold mom’s hand, rest next to each other in bed and chat, curl up together on the couch, whereas there’s going to be a point at which it would be something out of a bad Faulkner novel for Liam or Caleb to climb into bed and snuggle with me.

I know it has to happen, that pulling away from mommy, but I hope it happens slowly. There’s a whole long life ahead of them to be on their own, to fall into line with a society that still equates “masculine” with “unemotional.”  So as long as they’re willing, I’m going to hug and cuddle and kiss, and wait for those morning wake-ups. 

It’s not really that I want to go back to dealing with babies; I’m delighted to have said good-bye to formula and diapers and spit-up. It’s just that they will always be my babies.  There’s no saying good-bye to that.