He's well into his teenage years, yet my son still kisses me good night. I'm sure going to miss it when he stops. In truth, he stopped once a few years ago when he announced he was "a little too old for this," but changed his mind after we had a father and son talk. I've always known the spoken word can deliver a powerful message, but as I learned that night, sometimes the message needn't be voiced at all. And sometimes the greatest lessons learned are taught to us unknowingly by our children. One of the things we talked about that night was an old friend of mine.
We were going camping for the weekend. When I stopped to pick up my friend, he and his father were working together on a classic car restoration. Grabbing his gear and before leaving he said, "See you on Sunday, Pop," and without hesitation, gave his father a kiss. So many years have gone by since then, yet the memory of that moment remains with me—a lasting impression of the love my friend had for his father and demonstrated through the power of a kiss.
My son and I talked about my father, too. I wish I could kiss Dad once more, but he passed away some years ago. We didn't kiss as grown men until I was well into adulthood. When I began to kiss him again it was on special occasions—holidays, family gatherings—times when I could do so with neither of us feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. It was a wonderful feeling to express my love for him in such a way, and I knew he felt so, too. Not since my childhood had kissing served as a routine declaration of affection between us, but once resumed, we both had come to expect it. On the night he died and again one last time before he was laid to rest, I tenderly kissed him and whispered, "I love you." This is what I told my son—not with intent to embarrass him into continuing our nightly ritual, but instead to share with him a small piece of the love I had for my father and how much he had meant to me. He listened, and when I was through, he kissed me. We haven't missed a night since.
Many times I have wondered if our nightly ritual was about to reach its untimely demise, the consequence of some offense committed by my firstborn. Having duly expressed my dissatisfaction with something my son has said or done, the ensuing verbal sparing commences. He unknowingly exposes his vulnerability when he says things in anger, part of his full-speed quest toward manhood. Despite any ill feelings that might remain between us as the day draws to a close, we never allow such emotions to interfere with our nightly kiss. When my son is ready for bed, he finds me. When I see him, any anger I experienced earlier quietly disappears. He stands before me, not quite a man but for the moment, my little boy. He seeks my reassurance that we are okay and that I still love him. I give a comforting hug, the nightly kiss, and the reaffirmation that regardless of his transgressions, my love remains unconditional, eternal. As he heads off to bed I bask in the glow of fatherly love and the reassurance that he still needs me. Once again our private world has been made right, if but for one more night.
I hope my son never feels uncomfortable kissing me, but if he ever does, I'll understand. Perhaps one day he'll be blessed with children of his own and then he, too, will come to know the wonder and glory of fatherhood and the power of his child's kiss.
This story is from Chicken Soup for the Father and Son Soul: Celebrating the Bond That Connects Generations © 2011 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.
Cover image via Ana Blazic Pavlovic I Shutterstock