My son still wants to hold my hand at 13. Holding his dad's hand has been drilled into him since he was able to walk as a safety thing and I assumed as he got older he would not want to anymore, but everytime we go anywhere he automatically reaches for my hand. I have adjusted this to linking arms but in the last few months he has really sprouted up and is nearly as tall as me. I'm 5"11. Does this look/seem odd to others? Does it matter? We are extremely close as father and son and he is incredibly affectionate I suspect it's his way of showing me this but I'm suddenly conscious of getting "looks" from people who might at first glance assume we are two adults. Not that that is an issue for me but I don't want him to be embarrassed in any way or discouraged from displaying affection. I also don't want him to feel I am rejecting him by stopping it so not sure what to do
The other answers are good. I'll offer another point of view:
Your son wants to hold your hand? Let him. One day he probably won't want to anymore and you'll long for the days when your little boy wanted to hold his daddy's hand.
My son is also very affectionate. He's 6.5 and loves to hold my hand and kiss me and his mom and his sisters. And he particularly likes to kiss on the lips, which felt fine and normal when he was a baby but has felt a little awkward now. I brought this up to my wife and her advice to me was the same: "Who cares? Cherish it." :)
PS: I'm assuming, of course, in all this that your son is doing this out of love and not out of fear or control or something internally harmful.
13 is probably old enough to read and understand what you wrote, but the message about conformity should be crafted to the direction you want to lead in.
Kipling has a few words I think about whenever peer pressure comes up:
If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; if you can trust yourself while others doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings nor lose the common touch; if all men count with you but none too much;
yours is the world and everything in it, and what is more you'll be a man, my son.
The next few years you are expected to make him into a independent-ish person, and the balance between social and personal values is an important part of that. If this is farther from the mainstream than you want him to be a correction is called for.
Your personal boundaries are also not trivial, if you are uncomfortable with this sign of affection that is relevant by itself and teaching him to notice and respect the boundaries of others is a worthwhile lesson.
Does this look/seem odd to others?
Yes. It looks weird because it is unusual to see a 13 year old boy holding his dad's hand. I guarantee that people seeing it are thinking it is weird.
Does it matter?
If you're the same size as your son or close then it looks even weirder. You're right.
There's a host of variables here to bear in mind- age, maturity, understanding and feelings.
First of all, at 13 he's likely to understand what it means to be holding his father's hand still- for most people if you think back to when this stopped, sure it may have been when they were younger, but everyone's different and this could well be the case- he could draw comfort from it still and that's why.
As for maturity, it could be that your son jsut doesn't realize the apparnt mixed meanings and implications behind doing this- but weighing this against hwo the conversation could go is important as well. As any parent will generally think, you don't want him to stop showing affection and stifle him, but conversely there does come a point that you need to realise and then say- you're a bit old for this now. The ways to say this are varied and the best judge is you on this- if he's generally sensitive and understanding then it won't be too difficult.
Understanding and feelings wise, this bears on both of you- you don't want to make him feel he's doing something wrong, or that he can't show you parental affection or seek comfort from you being around- but you also don't want someone judging you as a result of this.
I had the same drilled into me, my son had the same drilled into him in terms of crossing roads (or being near them as through a case of coincidence, both he and I frequent areas with very narrow pathways). However, as soon as we're in a "safe" area where it's ok, I made it a habit over time of asking if he'd like to walk by himself but he can hold my hand if he still wants to.
This will continue as he gets older but already, at times, he'll let go and provided it's safe to do so I'll let him do "his own thing". For my part if I were in the same situation, I would have been encouraging him to walk by himself as he's "getting older".
Then again, I'm broad minded enough that I wouldn't be overly concerned with other people's opinions as such, but developmentally speaking, he'll need to understand the societal norms and implications of being seen holding hands with his Father after a certain age.
It could well be it'll only take a few sightings of him doing this by his friends for him to realise from conersations overheard or a little joking what's going on and he'll stop doing it himself.
If you're uncomfortable, that's kind of your issue. Decide if what you want for your life is to behave based on what others think of you, or if you want to do what you feel is best regardless of what they think. Then decide what that is, and be consistent.
Maybe talk with your son about it.
You: "You know you don't have to do that anymore, right?"
Him: "Yeah. I know. I just want to."
Him: "Because... "
You: "Got it, buddy. Sometimes I feel that way too. How about this? Next time lets do it on our own, but I'll be right there with you. Because even if my hand isn't touching yours, it'll always be here for you if you need it. You're old enough where its more important to know that you can grab it when you need it, then for you to hold it every time."