Ancient History

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Kisses on the Clock

“Kiss finger?”

I kiss Ollie’s finger. He pinched it in a cabinet door.

“Kiss foot?”

He stepped on a Matchbox car.

“Kiss head?”

He bonked it on the corner of an open kitchen drawer.

“Kiss butt?”

I opt to kiss my palm and give him a soft little pop accented by a kissy sound. “All better?” I say.

As a toddler, it’s often enough to kiss the boo-boos. He holds up his red finger. I scoop him up, peck, and as I set him down he runs out of my arms and back to play. It’s magic, but it has a limited appeal. Kisses are on the clock. One of these days, he will figure out that kisses are not magic pain erasers.

The older kids don’t ask for a kiss when they hurt or ache. They want Tylenol or an ice pack or a bandaid. They want the rice bag heated in the microwave to place over a throbbing ear. I provide these things with love and care. But I miss those moments when I can acknowledge their hard times with a cuddly peck.

The most difficult challenge of mothering older children is even if they still believed in the saving, restorative, healing power of mama’s kiss, how do you kiss a wounded heart? Is there a peck for a brain that is trying to remember everything for the physics test and can’t? How can I kiss my palm and pop worry away?

One of the beauties of a toddler asking for magic healing kiss is they can show you exactly where it hurts. Ollie points at the precise spot on top of his head, so that’s where I aim. Sometimes, as a mom of four teenagers, I don’t know where to aim. This leads to wild speculation and a barrage of concern, aimed at the everywhere. If it’s hard to pinpoint, it’s easy to overcompensate which leads to a very annoyed teenager. They crave understanding. They hate the awkward. Who is more awkward than a mom who is misunderstanding?


Here I am, kissing the boo-boos of my wide-eyed toddler while tending to the complex needs of kids who are nearly grown. I can see the trajectory Ollie will most likely follow and it makes me even more mindful and appreciative of those little moments when he presents his little sadnesses. His face is turned up with trusting expectation.

The difference with four teenagers? I have to look up to their faces. They still trust me, but they know from experience that mommy is not imbued with magic powers. Sometimes, I think we look at each other and wish it were still that way.

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