A couple of weeks ago I told Dean I wanted us to make a conscious effort to hug our kids more. I’ve usually thought of us as a fairly touchy-feely family, but I’d been noticing how that can tend to slip away as kids get older. You’re not changing their diapers or bathing them, so there’s much less physical contact built into your routine, and it’s easy to get out of the habit of tickling them or tousling with them. And even as kids are exerting their independence and testing limits, they still need that reassurance and touch as much as ever.
I do ask the older kids to help care for their younger siblings, which I think is a great way for them to give and receive love, and they do play together and cuddle with the baby a lot. But obviously, not all of my kids will have younger siblings, and I was also wanting to be sure that lots of affection was coming directly from us.
So I suggested to Dean that we try to make a new habit to always give each of the kids a big hug when they leave the house in the mornings, and before bed at night. Ideally there will be other times that we spontaneously show that kind of affection, but I thought that was a good starting point, so that at least they’re getting two good hugs every day.
I also told Dean, “You know how you’ll hear people say things like, ‘My dad never showed much affection, but I always knew he loved me.’ And they probably could tell he loved them because of how hard he worked, or how well he treated their mother, or because he was kind. But even though that’s better than not knowing your dad loves you, it’s better still if a kid never has to guess or hunt for evidence that their parents love them–if they can know it because they hear it and feel it every day.”
So we’ve been trying to be more overtly affectionate. I’ve been surprised to discover that, especially in the mornings when we’re all in a rush, we rarely did hug the kids. Then if we forgot to at night, they could easily go all day without a hug.
Ike just left to go on a camp-out, and had been rushing around assembling everything he needed, and was running behind. But when he was finally ready to go, before he headed out the door, he turned around and walked back across the kitchen and gave me a big hug. I have no idea if he had overheard Dean and I talking, or whether he’s noticed our affection campaign. But it made me very happy. I said, “Thanks for remembering to hug me.” Then, half-joking, I added, “We always should, because that way if something happens to you–” I stopped myself. “Not that I think anything’s going to happen. But if anything ever did–”
Ike laughed, and said, “Yeah. I know.”
Update: While I’ve been typing this, Hazel’s climbed up into my lap about five times. I keep hugging her and then setting her back down and trying to distract her with toys, but what she really wants is to stay on my lap and pound on the keyboard. That doesn’t really work out so well for me. Sometimes a mom needs some space to herself, too.