Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hugs

The first time I met Dennis's mom, it was the middle of the night.

I had invited myself to their house for Christmas (but that's another story!) and had flown from Dallas to Los Angeles to be with them. Dennis was going to meet me at the airport, but it had been an unusually cold December, and the pass over the mountains was closed to cars due to snow. After exhausting all other options, it was plain that there was only one thing to do: take the bus. The ride was slow and tedious and cattle-car-ish, and by the time I got to his parents' house it was about 3:00 in the morning. I was exhausted.

Dennis, the love-lorn twenty-one-year-old that he was, had stayed up, pining away for me (not really, but I like to think that. Hey, if we'd only had cell phones back then, he could have gotten some shut-eye!). His parents had gone to bed, but when I walked in the door, his folks got out of bed to greet me. His mom literally came running down the hall to meet me. Then, before I knew what was happening, she wrapped me up in a warm hug that I still remember, twenty-four years later.

Here was someone who had never met me, but who had decided already that she loved me and accepted me. And she showed me in a very tangible way. I "felt" her love.

My family was very affectionate, too, so between the two of us, we knew we wanted ours to be a "huggy" family. Maybe it's dorky, but I can't imagine our home life any other way. Which is not to say it doesn't take a little effort. Like vitamins, I've noticed kids (and husbands) might not act like they need hugs, but they do, even when their bodies start changing and their emotions are as fickle as Texas weather. My biggest hugger is Neal-14, who towers over me and tells me he can't wait till he's big enough to wrap his arms around me twice (I suppose that's meant to make me feel safe and secure? I laugh and hug him back and tell him, "I can still take you down." He rolls his eyes.).

Every morning when they wake up, our kids expect hugs. They come stumbling into the kitchen, arms outstretched. Throughout the day, when we're crossing paths, saying hello or saying goodbye, we'll hug. When we're in the car, we'll reach out and hold hands. I'm always amazed at how, even when we've had heated discussions, offering a hug helps say, "Even if we disagree, I still love you." When we get too busy, our kids have been known to sit down and invite us to snuggle. And there is nothing that warms my heart more than to see my kids, unprompted, say, "I love you," and then give each other hugs.

Following the tradition of my precious mother-in-law, I've also decided I want to be a hugger to the kids in our children's lives. Some of them, I know, come from great families. Others are starved for acceptance and affection in any form.

As easy as it is to be affectionate with my own family, outside the home, I tend to be more reserved, so this takes some doing for me. But I want to be that lady who doesn't care how big you are, how small you are, or what disagreements you've had with my child. I don't care if I've known you since you were born, or if it's the middle of the night and we're meeting for the first time (Thank you, Mom. I love you!).

When you see me coming, you'd better brace yourself, because you're going to get hugged!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just came home for lunch and had a package waitng on me. It was my Rice Krispies gift! How exciting and unexpected today!! Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to enter the contest!! Andrea from Illinois

Raquel, The Glamorous Life said...

hey i live in Bakersfield!!!
i try to be huggy with my family some of the kids are more so than others but i still make them do it! my husbands family is not huggy at all so it was hard for him at first but now he is great at it!

Shelley V. said...

What a special post, Katherine! You put it so beautifully. Makes me want to go and hug my boys! And thought-provoking regarding reaching out to other kids. Thanks.

ivegot5 said...

My mom hugs us all the time too. I remember it from my childhood and it was always wonderful that she hugged our friends too. It meant alot to them because I can remember them all commenting on it. She even took in a few of my friends when they were on the outs with parents and didn't come from great homes and helped them and their families reconcile. She taught me so much about unconditional love. You're doing a wonderful thing.

Sherri@NoiseOverload said...

I'll be there as soon as I can and I'll be expecting my hug.

Mothership said...

I am physically affectionate with my children and husband as well. Hand holding, hugging, sitting really close--all accepted, usual behavior. I do not hug outside of my family, often, however. Sometimes, sometimes, a very good girlfriend or neighbor child I love. NEVER a man (besides uncles and so forth) and feel very weird if a man comes in for a hug. Also, if you're going to hug, make it substantial. I do not like the barely-touching, too-soft-pat-on the-shoulder kind.

Overall, though, I think touching is important.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

I have a sister-in-law who's a big hugger. I remember how much it surprised me at first, because even though we hug in my family, we don't hug outside the family.

I got used to it, though, and now I look forward to those small reminders that other people care =) I'm sure the other kids in your family's life feel the same way.

She's So There said...

I am so with you on the hugginess..its an expected part of my world...I don't even realize that some folks might not be comfortable with it...Madison used to hug my principal every day despite his obvious discomfort...at five she said when I pointed it out that he wasn't comfortable...she said "that's why he needs me even more" that child knows wisdom...and she was right! I look forward to the day when I hug YOUR neck!

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Mothership - I hear you on the "man" hug thing. Ew! This is where the judicious use of the "sister hug" comes in (ie, turn sideways). I think this is wise for hugging ANY male who is not your husband.

We've gone over this with our older girls for when those youth group boys "come in for" (I loved that!) their hug. Can you ever be too careful?? =)