“…that’s the minimum. Just four hugs a day, not the maximum.”
If you know it, the song is now stuck in your head on endless loop for the rest of the day (you’re welcome). Silly song. Annoying ear-worm. Surprisingly on point.
I don’t come from a family of huggers. Do-ers, Give-ers, Make-ers of Casseroles, but not particularly touch-y folks. Which means it was no surprise that my eldest child turned out to be a non-hugger. From the very first days she disliked long snuggles, refused to be swaddled, and would not sleep until she’d been laid down in her own space, to sprawl out undisturbed.
As a teenager this distaste for hugs has intensified. She tolerates them for our sake. Her feelings on the matter are transparently clear.
This past year she’s had to navigate through bouts of anxiety and depression. She’s found her way, learning strategies that work for her and becoming patient with the process. I’ll never forget the time she came to me, exhausted and overwhelmed, with a bewildered look on her face: “I think I… need… a hug.”
And it is a need, for all humans, even the non-touchy ones. We know that infants will not thrive without adequate touch. Scientific studies show that hugging for 20 seconds or longer releases the hormone oxytocin which reduces stress and creates feelings of contentment.
Maybe four isn’t the number for all of us. I’m pretty sure my youngest child is on the other extreme of the spectrum than my eldest. He craves near constant physical affection and has very little sense of personal boundaries. Right now our “Kisses are for Family Only” campaign is in full swing at school. We already had a little book on it, since B had the same issue at his age.
There are a lot of snuggles in our house. And I’m pretty sure it’s saving my sanity these days. If I’m honest I think I need it more than anyone else.
Hugs are good medicine.
Which is why there will always be hugs for teenagers, even if they count down the 20 seconds each time. Also why, we are happy for the littles sit in our laps and climb all over us and hold onto a hand/finger/leg as needed. Why, as a couple, we need to do better at hugs hello and goodbye kisses, even though it doesn’t come naturally in the midst of busy life.