Our Story Begins:
Looking Back.. I Hugged Them Forward
From the first moment I held my daughter, my first child, I cuddled her. I hugged, tickled, played, and snuggled with her. In fact, my oldest, Abbi, now an 18-year-old woman, would only cuddle up to me, not her mother. As a result, much to her chagrin I’m sure, I still call her by the nickname I gave her – Snuggle.
I never thought about what that meant to any of my children, it wasn’t a conscious thing. I held them. I hugged them. I kissed them. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t do this. In fact, with the addition of each pregnancy, I worried that the amount of attention, affection, and love I now had to share with several other people was diminishing. It never dawned on me that love and affection were just that – love and affection – and that I wasn’t losing or diminishing the experience for any of my kids just because there was more of them.
The other thing I did that confounded people was what, to me, was the simplest of things: I talked to my kids, even when they couldn’t talk back. Not like you would talk with a dog or baby-talk. No “snookie-uggams” or “Who’s a big boy?!” No, I had actual conversations with my kids, even if they didn’t talk back.
“Uh-oh, we’re all out of Cheerios, Abbi! How did we run out of Cheerios? Was it your turn to tell me, you silly little girl?!” This would be followed by my touching, tickling or patting her on the head. Sure, it was more simplistic than if it had been my wife, but it was conversation.
“Hannah, would you wear this tie, or the other one?”
“Okay, boys, what has gotten into your mother?”
These are conversations I have had with them even since then. Now they can answer me.
So why do I tell you this?
So few people touch, talk or hug. I don’t mean awkward, acquaintance hugs. I mean affection for your family.
An article in Psychology Today on the power of touch references this very phenomenon. My daughter brought it up after taking her psychology courses and learned what I and her mother did to influence her perceptions and views of relationships just from that. It’s not uncomfortable touch, but it’s the idea that you get comfort from the touch of those you love. The article states how in the womb kids feel the impact of a heartbeat, the comfort of their mother. Where I think it does a disservice is implying – whether intentional or not – that the mother’s touch is the most comforting. I would argue my kids got comfort from me as well, even when their mother couldn’t do it. When my daughters were sad, I held them. When they were hurt or getting booster shots, I held their hand, or hugged them as it happened and it eased the tension and the pain.
Conversation, however simple, was still activity, stimulation, and inclusion. I continue that today. From eating at the dinner table to talking about how great a Steven Moffat script in Masterpiece’s Sherlock was this week; I have intelligent discussions at the dinner table. It might be an article in a magazine; it might be Bugs Bunny or it might be who will be the next Doctor Who?
I’m not afraid to open up to my kids. I teach the virtues of opening a door for women to my sons while letting my daughters know they should never act less than who they are for a man. I instill virtue while showing love and affection. Chivalry isn’t dead, it’s been replaced by self-centered seclusion, I believe, and I want my kids to have values similar to mine.
Part of me thinks that’s why, two years after losing their mother to pneumonia, they continue to slowly improve, not fall into despair.
I didn’t treat my kids like adults, I treated them like human beings. They deserve the affection, attention, and love of their parents. They may be without their Mom, but they never lost love in their house.
What about you? Do you hug your kids, or touch them, tickle them, or show affection? Do your kids get older and you turn to awkward handshakes or don’t know what to do? Regardless of what happens, my kids know we have each other. Talking, hugging, and touch all make that easy. Do you do it?
More from GEM:
Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.