You know those people who are naturally warm and gracious? Those kinds of welcoming people that envelop you in a big, comforting hug the moment they see you? Yeah, I am not one of those people. The sad truth is, I happen to hate hugs.
I have always wished I was one of those people, but I’m not. I grew up in a family that wasn’t physically affectionate. As a result, I’ve grown up to be a person who is decidedly not a hugger. It doesn’t help that I’m introverted and quiet by default, so in general, people are not really my thing.
But there’s something about hugging in particular that makes me feel like a robot posing as a human.
When my husband reaches out to me, I automatically stiffen up. When my kids want to cuddle, I feel like I have to force my limbs to do what I know moms should do — snuggle with them. When I greet family and friends, I coach myself not to break away from a hug too early: OK, one, two, three … it’s now safe to let go.
At nighttime, I like my space. After a whole day of “peopling” and being social, I shut down into a little cocoon to regenerate into a respectable member of society for the next morning. Out come the blankets and away goes the world. Spooning with my husband in bed? Forget it; it’s like trying to cuddle with Chewbacca. In fact, I’m one of those wives who is quite happy to have the whole bed to myself, and it’s a secret I feel like I have to take to my grave. Women are supposed to be constantly cold and cuddly, right? So, what the heck is wrong with me?
Sometimes, I try to figure out why I am the way that I am. Was I damaged as a child? Am I secretly some kind of sociopath? Am I the stereotype of a cold and bitter wife whose husband will be forced into the arms of another woman? I can’t even type that last statement without eye-rolling so hard.
There is a connection between emotional childhood neglect and hugging. Children who grew up with parents or caregivers who didn’t meet their emotional needs tend to avoid physical affection, like hugging. So, perhaps, it is possible that there is a link from my past that has led me to develop into the sort of woman who is just not comfortable with hugging.
And it’s not that I hate hugs for the sake of hugs. I appreciate the gesture; I actually wish I was more comfortable with hugging. The real issue I have with hugging is how I respond to the act. It’s like every hug reminds me of what an awkward and uncomfortable individual I am. Every hug signals a flashback to an entire childhood spent thinking, What is wrong with you? Just as things like mingling or being the life of a party seemed to come naturally to other people but eluded me, physical warmth was just another thing to add to my list of “Things I Am Socially Awkward at Doing.”
My lack of physical warmth never bothered me much until I became a mother of older children. Snuggling and cuddling babies came naturally to me, but cuddling older kids? It’s something I have to work on. And work on it I do, because I believe it’s important to maintain that connection as they grow up. In many ways, I believe it’s even more important than it was when they were babies.
Connecting physically with a baby happens organically through diaper changes, feeding, and the act of carting them everywhere. But older kids? Entire days could pass without them needing anything from me in a physical way. And that lack of physical interaction adds up quickly.
For example, when my family piles onto the couch to watch a movie together, my kids will gravitate towards my husband to snuggle (and it’s not for the lack of a soft lap, I’ll tell you that much). It’s just that even at a young age, they’ve already picked up on the fact that Mom is not cuddly.
So, I’m working on it. I know it’s important to maintain that physical connection with my kids. I remember when my husband and I were dating, we were hanging out in the kitchen with his mom. Watching him as a teenage football player sweep his mom up into a big bear hug, I thought to myself, I want that someday. I want a son that will hug me.
So, I’ve started small. I pull my kids close to me on the couch, do special bedtime tuck-ins, and cuddle with them for a few minutes before they drift off to sleep, all while making extra efforts to hug them throughout the day.
It sounds so silly that I have to make a dedicated effort to hug my kids more, but we all have something we need to work on as parents, right? Mine just happens to be hugging like a normal person.
Oh, and if my husband happens to be reading this? Sorry, babe. There will be no spooning at night. Mama’s gonna need some space after all this extra hugging.