While I’d consider us as a fairly loved up, snuggly, nuzzly clan, the truth is I’ve had to actively force myself to be physically affectionate with my kids. Not because I lack affection, but because showing it wasn’t wired in my brain’s Mothering 1.0 software. I’ve had to train myself to kiss them goodbye each time I go out.
Children need to feel connected to us almost as much as they need air. Affection is like a beautiful thread that strings the connected moments of a day together. I don’t know when I started using love tickles, but they are a sweet way to say “I’m right here” particularly if I’m driving. I usually just slip my hand into my child’s lap and that’s the code to say “I love you”. Their part of the code is to tickle my hand. It feels warm and fuzzy. Or let me know they are feeling off track by whacking my hand, which is fine too.
Other little check-ins between chores or separations might be hugs or nuzzles, knee squeezes or running my fingers through their hair. We do lots of kisses and little licks in our house too. I’m really grateful to my husband for injecting abundant use of the words “love you” into our family; something that was rarely said in mine.
And I think we need to make the effort to connect physically even when our children grow beyond the sweet intimacy of the early years. Patty Wipfler, Founder of Hand in Hand Parenting, talks about the over the top nuzzling she did of her teenage boys. She would say “Come here you, Ahh… I just need a whiff of ya to get my fix” and they would grumpily throw her off, but she’d notice the tinge of a smile.
A really nice way to lay the foundation for physical intimacy with our kids, particularly when there has been some distance, is through rough and tumble. This can be sock wrestling or pillow fighting, or anything that allows your child to really feel you up against them. We made up this nonsense game called “Womph”, where I would be a polar bear, coaxing the little bunny towards me. Then, as they were pretending to be lulled into a false sense of security, I would ‘Womph’ them by basically throwing myself on their huddled body.
I used to love being thrown around or spun when I was a kid. I think mostly that generation would tickle children as a way to connect. I hated being tickled and I never do it to children as it can feel so powerless. Generally it seems like kids feel powerless enough and any play that gives them a taste of feeling stronger or quicker or cleverer is always a winner.
What kind of affection did you receive as a child? How do you show it in your family? I’d love some new ideas!