“Four times a day for survival, 8 times a day for maintenance, 12 times a day for self-esteem growth and confidence boosting!” the instructor bellowed in his warm, but also loud “class” voice. I listened to him as my daughter sat next to me, eager for the good-bye song that would send her into the lobby to receive her end of class stamps on her hands.
When the door opened, she rushed out along with the other two year olds. In that hour long class, we’d probably sat and snuggled six times. And, because she’s two, she’s still at the age where she crawls into my lap for snuggles throughout the day.
But my five year old? I may go a day or two before a really wrap him in a snuggly, toddler-like hug. Why? He’s always on the move. Often times, we’re arguing, and that’s not a great time for a hug. (or so I thought.) And my husband mostly puts him to bed. When it’s me, I do hug and snuggle him before he falls asleep. So, if I think about it, my five year old averages about 2-3 hugs a day. Ouch.
My two year old probably gets about 15, and my infant…well, he’s always being held, played with or nursed, so he gets lots of physical affection.
It’s not that my oldest child doesn’t want to be hugged. It’s just that at his age, there’s very little snuggle time built into the day. I have to make it happen. A quick hug when we’re standing next to each other, a quick hug at preschool drop off…it’s not as easy as it is when they’re babies. Somewhere between him going to preschool and gaining an attitude, the snuggly relationship sort of…wore off.
Once I started really thinking about how often I hug him and how much more of an effort I should make, I purposefully began opening my arms to him many more times during the day- asking for a hug, or just giving him one when he was standing next to me. Each time, he fell into me and returned the embrace. It was awesome really. He never once shirked away, and always held onto me every time I hugged him.
I heard this statistic for a year in my daughter’s mommy and me gymnastics class before I really started to think about it. And even if it may be hard to actually hug each one of your children 12 times each day, (especially when they are big and in school and running around all the time!), I think it’s a good statistic to keep in mind. Now that I have, I’ve made a much bigger effort to give my oldest child a loving touch, a quick hug, a “I’m here. I see you and I love you,” recognition.
We don’t really think about hugging our kids, especially as they get older. They may seem like they don’t need it or even that they don’t want it. But that’s far from the truth. Most children still enjoy and need the physical attention we can give. Especially in the moments when it’s the most difficult…in the moments they’re losing control, in the moments you’re frustrated, in the moments when it seems like a hug would not be the natural reaction- that’s when a big embrace can make the most impact.