H is for Hugs!
Lots and lots of hugs! Hugs are such a wonderful way to show your children, or anyone really, how much they mean to you. Have you just sat and thought about how a big hug from someone you love makes you feel inside? We call it having the “warm and fuzzies” at our house. I love warm and fuzzy and our kids do too.
Here’s an example of how something as simple as HUGS has affected my life and my daughter’s life:
I love the outdoors so when my daughter was old enough to hike with me, I would take her to a state park close to our home and spend the afternoon hiking the mountain. It was like Heaven…in the fall we would see glorious shades of red, orange and yellow peppering the sides of the mountain. In the spring it was as if every wildflower in the universe had suddenly popped up out of the ground. I loved those hikes and so did she. I would say to her during these mini hiking excursions, “look at the beautiful trees or the lovely flowers, it’s as if God is giving us a great big bear hug today!” She would stop and look all around her, taking in everything her little eyes could see and imagine. I wasn’t sure she understood, but I liked saying it to her anyway.
When Aubrey was nine, I took her on a kayaking trip on the Indian River, just near Vero Beach, Florida. It was her spring break from school and we were looking forward to a few days off. We set out on a four-hour kayaking journey and along the way; a very large mother manatee and her baby swam alongside our kayak until we made it to our half-way resting point. It was one of the most spectacular sites I’ve ever experienced and Aubrey was equally as thrilled by this magical moment. When we made it to shore, she jumped out of the kayak and exclaimed, “Mom! God just gave us a ginormous bear hug!” It was then I realized she had soaked in all of the moments we had previously discussed and now she completely understood the beauty of a “hug”.
We all need hugs but our children really need hugs…hugs are healing, hugs are inspirational, hugs make us feel secure, alive and confident.
After my divorce, I began seeing a family counselor to help me navigate this new chapter in our lives. I was so nervous about going to see a “professional” and couldn’t afford much at the time. It was incredibly difficult for me to admit I needed help but I knew I had to find someone objective and skilled to talk me through this. In the end, it was one of the best decisions I made. It was a healthy and healing experience and I came away with tips and tools that I would’ve never thought of using.
One of the most effective pieces of instruction the family counselor gave me was a nightly ritual of holding my daughter. Not just giving her a hug goodnight, but really sitting down and holding each other. I decided to do it and I put my own “spin” on it creating a “game like” approach to the nightly holding; it ended up being the best part of our day. We called it our “hug me” time.
Every evening before bed we’d finish our “bedtime rituals”, brushing teeth, reading a book, etc. and then I would hold my little girl in our favorite rocking chair. She was a small five, almost six year old, so I held her cheek to cheek so she could lay her head down on my chest or shoulder. I would wrap my arms around her and simply rock. I told her this was our “hug me” time and it was very special. It was such an awesome experience for me and for my daughter. The benefits were displayed in her ability to sleep all night, wake up in a good mood and seem well adjusted to her new surroundings.
I found, very quickly, that when I made the time to follow through on our “hug me” time she was much better-behaved and seemed happier. She responded to my instructions, seemed to do better in class; it was a delightfully surprising result. It was also good for me. I didn’t realize how much I benefited from these 15 minutes each evening. I would tuck her in and kiss her goodnight and I felt so good that I didn’t even mind cleaning up from the evening. I continued the nightly ritual for about two years. After that, we found new ways to spend “hug me” time. Sometimes it was as simple as laying on her bed and making up stories about fairies and angels and made up places that she desperately wanted to see.
My daughter is a teenager now and she learned a long time ago how to identify when she needed a hug or needed to be held. And although she’s too big to hold on my lap for 15 minutes every night, she still, on occasion, comes to me and says “mom, I really need some hugs”. I love that she knows when she needs to be held tight and I love that she still asks me. It’s a bond I will forever treasure.