When do we stop holding hands?
Or maybe the question is why we stop holding them.
Long before teenage relationships when holding hands gives you that nervous, giddy feeling in your belly, we hold hands for comfort. For companionship. For support. For togetherness. For fun. To share in a moment – big or small – happy or sad.
My oldest and youngest sons have always held hands in this way. When D was a baby, he’d fall asleep holding his big brother’s hand. And R seemed to be saying “I love you! I’ve got you! Let’s be here together,” and feel the love from D in return. It was camaraderie. It was saying with their hands something they couldn’t necessarily put into words, especially at that young age.
These boys fight like crazy sometimes – like so many siblings do. But even after a long day of fighting, battling, tattling, I often still find them next to each other on the couch, hand in hand. I imagine it’s soothing. It’s a way of saying that this, above all, is where they were meant to be . . . together.
One of my favorite pictures from E’s kindergarten orientation is of him and his friend walking outside the school holding hands. Two almost-five-year-old boys who had known each other for years already, embarking on the first bus ride, the first steps into a new world. Together. Something tells me they’d never be caught doing that these days as big, bad 6th graders. But why was it so ok back then and not now?
What is it about growing up that changes what it means to hold hands?
Is it interpreted by onlookers as love, as a crush, as something our society feels the need to judge or comment on? In so many cultures, it’s common to see family members or friends hand in hand, or walking with arms around each other. But from what I’ve experienced here, I seldom see anyone holding hands between that kindergarten age and teen dating age and beyond. I guess it can be read as a sign of neediness, like a toddler holding his mom’s hand at the playground. As that toddler grows, he is less likely to want to hold his mom’s hand, and she will likely let his little hand go . . . even when she may be the one who needs that hand-hold the most.
My first grade teacher (yes, way back in the 1980s) had a secret code with the line leaders in class. As we walked down the hall, she’d hold the line leader’s hand, and if she squeezed it three times, it meant “I love you.” I’m certain this would not be allowed these days, but it really was a special little gesture back in the day. It’s one I’ve taught my boys and I hope they teach to their kids someday as well. Nervous for a big game? Let me squeeze your hand just three quick times before you head onto the field.
Is it more ok for girls than boys to hold hands with each other? Gender identity and sexual preferences aside, I don’t see why it should be. My best friend once gave me a notecard with a picture of two little girls holding hands and sort of skipping in a circle, and the caption said “Hold a true friend with both hands.” I was delighted a few years later when my wedding photographer happened to snap a pic of that friend and me actually holding each other’s hands – both hands. It was special. That hand-hold said a lot.
I guess that’s my point to all of this seemingly aimless pondering. I’ve experienced countless times the power of holding hands as a means of communication – from calming nerves, to saying “I want to be here with you” to letting someone know you’re there as they pass into the world beyond.
So why do we stop? Why is there a major gap being childhood and teen/adult relationships when it’s simply not as common or expected? What if, instead of sending a Snap or a text to your friend who is having a rough day, you reach out and hold their hand, just to let them know you care? I can feel your eyes rolling and some readers saying, “OK, Boomer” right now. I admit it’s a cheesy suggestion.
But you get my point, I hope. Every time I see people holding hands, I see so much more than palms together and fingers intertwined. It’s communication. Support. Comfort. A reminder that we’re in this together.
Please feel free to come hold my hand any time, and I’ll gladly hold yours in return.