There comes a point in most boys’ lives when they no longer feel comfortable giving their father a kiss goodnight before heading for bed.
I have vivid snapshot in my head of the moment I decided I was too old to kiss my dad. I guess I must have been around 10 years old - the surrounding details are hazy - but I can remember quite clearly standing in the doorway about to leave the room when my mum said “are you not going to kiss your father goodnight?” and I said no.
I cannot tell you why, other than I was aware that it had been feeling less and less comfortable to do so each night. My heart was beating fast as on some semi-subconscious level I realised that this was some kind of turning point, and I had no idea how my parents were going to react.
In the end they didn’t do much. My mother said “ok then” and I have the impression that my father rolled his eyes, but I didn’t hang around in case it got even more embarrassing. As a child, you never really think of your parents as vulnerable people with feelings and it certainly never occurred to me that my father might be hurt or upset by my actions.
Well the other night came full circle as my own son refused to give me a goodnight kiss before heading for bed. He’s clearly become more uncomfortable displaying affection over the past several months and there was a sense of inevitability that this moment would come. I can still force a hug out of him, but it is stilted. The testosterone is starting to increase with the onset of early puberty and my little boy is on his path to manhood. From this point on, for the next few years, other males will be seen in terms of rivalry, rather than warm affection.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties, and I was heading off to Dundee to study philosophy at university that I started giving my father a hug again. Initially he was awkward and stilted about it, but now it’s natural enough when we meet up.
My only hope is that it doesn’t take as long as another 15 years before my son is prepared to display a relaxed affection for his father again.