I’m going to leave work and shortly thereafter will be enveloped in arms, legs, chests and cheeks. (If my girls aren’t upstairs on their smart phones, that is.)
Three gorgeous daughters: One skinny as a stick, one as curvy as a young Kardashian, another long limbed and angular in Adidas. All full-bodied huggers. How did they get that way?
I snuggled them when they were babies. I hold them close now when they hurt. I wrap their necks with my arm as I kiss them goodnight and sniff their freshly washed hair.
But hugging does not come naturally or easily to me.
You might call me hug intolerant.
I don’t know how I got this way.
I’ve never liked hugs
My family is split down the middle. My mother did not go in for close bodily contact. My father could give hugs if you were crying and accept hugs if he wasn’t greasy from working on cars. My two brothers aren’t much for hugs. My sisters hug. My older sister even has a branded hug. It’s called the boobie hug. I’m not explaining it except to say she threatens to give you one if you act surly or sad. It’s supposed to cheer you up.
I stiffen when almost anyone moves in for a hug. My heart beats faster. I start to sweat. I don’t freak out. It’s a just moment.
Nothing tragic happened to me. I didn’t experience any unwanted touches as a child or any other time. I’m not shy or introverted.
In fact, I’m rather outgoing.
Yet I didn’t hug best friends in grade school, or long-time-no-see friends or relatives, except grandparents because it was mandatory.
When encountering a hugger, I am quick with a hearty handshake or I look for other ways to distract the hugger from completing the deed. I’ve managed to move through life with relative ease.
My husband tried to change me…
My husband noticed, of course, soon after we met. He tried to cure me of what he suspected was just poor early hug instruction. No, he said. The one arm side hug is not a proper hug. No. You don’t give quick two taps on the back and quickly step backward. You turn and face someone. You move in with your middle. You extend both arms, he instructed. You encircle both arms around the person. You linger a minimum of two beats. Longer if it is someone you know better or haven’t seen in a long time.
He gave up in frustration.
When I met my husband’s parents for the first time, he leaned over and whispered, “My dad’s a hugger.” It was a kindness. To prepare me. Get ready, he warned. His dad was going to move in for a hug.
When someone hugs me it may last three seconds, but seems much longer to me. But then it’s over and I don’t dwell on it because it could be months, maybe years before the next hug.
Then I ended up in a family of girls who love to hug all-day, every day.
My girls have always been enthusiastic “huggers.”
It started when they were very young. They wanted to hug anyone who came to the door.
The Sparkletts water guy. The pair with clipboards trying to upgrade our cable package. The neighbor who informed us our sprinkler system has a slow leak. My children would trail out the front door after them in bare feet and diapers lisping, “hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses.”
Now ages, 9, 11 and 12, they barrel toward me when I pick them up from school, as I lay in bed reading, as I come through the door at the end of the day, their arms open, their eyes flashing. And I hug them.
Because I’m their mother.
Not the evil step queen of old Disney movies biding my time until they’re eradicated.
And I love them.
And they love to hug. And I love to love them… even if the way they love to be loved isn’t natural or easy for me.
The things we do for love
And isn’t that what parenting is? Doing at times the unnatural and uncomfortable? No child in my house is rejected from getting a hug.
My girls don’t even seem to notice that launching into immediate and rapid conversation would be my preferred method of greeting after I arrive home. I asked my 12-year-old yesterday if she realized I wasn’t much of a hugger.
“What?” she said. “Why?”
She didn’t wait for the answer I would have fumbled to provide before she flounced off.
It appears the giving of the hug is what mattered to her, more than the receiving.
I do realize that my daughters probably won’t always want to hug me as they do. Maybe when I’m an empty nester and it’s just me and my husband alone with our love of Taco Tuesdays I’ll long for those hugs.
So for now, I’ll take a deep breath and remember:
“You turn and face someone. You move in with your middle. You extend both arms…”
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