“That was awesome!” and a “who-hoo!” shouted my 10 year old son as we exited The Incredible Hulk Coaster, a twisting, fast-paced roller coaster at Universal Orlando. Feeling wobbly as we walked away from the big, gigantic, green thrill ride, we exclaimed our love for the excitement that we just lived through.
We were in a bit of a hurry because we needed to catch up to my wife and my other two kids, all of whom were riding other rides; the other kids are under the height restriction and my wife is pregnant. And as we hurried along the streets of Islands of Adventure, something amazing happened. Something that hardly ever occurs anymore. Something completely unexpected. As my son and I were talking, he reached over and grabbed my hand. He chatted along about the ride, other rides, food, and the rest of the things that we still had to do. I was waiting for him to realize what he had done, but he kept holding on to my hand.
I’m not sure when the last time was that we held hands. Probably a couple of years. He grew out of the cuddly age around four and jumped quickly into Big Boyland, which is full of aggression, sweat, and smelly armpits. He has become his own person and questions everything from religion and politics to choice of sports teams. To know him is to know a kind and strong (in character and physical stature) kid. Even though he is only ten, I get glimpses of the man that he is becoming. And so when he reached for my hand and held it tightly, I realized that I was in the middle of “a moment.”
Realizing that he would probably release my grip as soon as we saw the rest of the family, I slowed the pace down and we continued to talk. Our conversation wasn’t anything life changing or deep and mostly consisted of the amazing roller coasters at Universal and how much time we were going to spend at Hogsmead (the Harry Potter world that Universal has put together). But the moment meant a lot to me. (I don’t know if it did him or not.)
The hand holding was the result of a father and son having fun and slipping back into a time of innocence and pure childlike behavior. For both of us. And in that moment, I wasn’t the dad who plans and watches over my kids, making sure they do not mess up or misbehave. I wasn’t trying to shape my child’s life. I was my son’s daddy and I was simply enjoying life with my kids. And in a way, that was shaping.
I am already missing that moment. I can’t imagine the weird look that my son would give me if I walked up next to him at the grocery store and held his hand. He would probably shake it off and look around to make sure nobody saw. Which would probably cause me to tease him about it and chase him around the store. But maybe, maybe in another happy moment of two guys walking together after a fun outing, he will hold my hand again.