Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Need A Hug

The truth is, for whatever reason, I was sometimes a cranky, moody kid. My husband is shocked by this truth seeing as how I am nothing but joyful these days, but it’s true, as a kid… not so joyous.

Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of fun. I laughed a lot, was goofy, silly, and likeable – a lot of the time, but some of the time I would put way too much energy into fighting and arguing and being a “stinker” as my mom would say.

I don’t know all the reasons I was like that, or maybe I know a few of the reasons, but regardless of what they are, I can tell you true that every.single.time I would get grumpy it was when I needed love the most, but when I was also the most unlovable.

Fast forward 30+ years and you have my daughter Sarah. She is way more awesome than I was, but she, like me, sometimes gets a little moody – don’t we all!

The good news is that I learned a little something in all those growing up years. I learned that if I need something it is a whole lot easier if we ask for what we need instead of playing this silly game of charades with our outward behavior.

I shared this lesson in a conversation with my daughter about three years ago when we were really going through some moody spots.

I told her about me as a little girl, how I was sometimes grumpy and moody and I would drive my mom nuts with my constant arguing, fighting, and my general cantankerous self – but all I really wanted was a hug. All I really wanted was to be told that I was loveable. All I wanted was to be told that while I felt awkward and twisted I was perfect in every way. 

Sarah listened to my words while twisting the hair on her Ariel doll. I wasn’t sure she was getting it. But I kept talking anyway.

I told her that when I would get in those moods it was nearly impossible to change it on my own. I told her that with every increasing need to be hugged I would be meaner and meaner with my words until my mom just had to take a break from it all and would leave me in my room until I could talk nice, and that could take HOURS! I was stubborn, too. As a kid. Now now.
Sarah looked at me a couple times, but mostly kept twirling the flowy red hair on her mermaid.

I told Sarah that what would have been so much better if I had learned to say what I wanted instead of dragging on an argument that only hurt my mom’s feelings and hurt myself. I told Sarah that if she ever felt herself in this same situation, that it would be super smart if she just said, no matter how hard it might be, “Mom, I need a hug.” I told her that if she did that, I would stop talking instantly and always, always give her a hug. I told her that maybe we would still talk about the situation, but not until we had the biggest, quietest, longest hug she needed. I told her that I would do that because no matter what her actions are – she is always huggable – and ALWAYS loveable. That nothing would ever stop me from loving her. Nothing. Ever.

After I finished talking the whole scene ended rather unceremoniously. She was calm and had moved on to dressing Cinderella. I slid off the foot of her bed, kissed her on the forehead, and went into the living room wondering if I was acting a little too much like a therapist as opposed to a mom.

A week later…

Sarah did something kid-like that landed herself in trouble and on the way to her room she slammed the door and a few other things. I heard stomping and some yelling and possibly the word “hate”. As in, “I hate you!” As in, she hated me. 

That’s hard to take. 

I whipped open her door and launched into the mom speech that starts with “If you think you hate me for sending you to your room, just wait to see what else I can do!”  

Lame. SUPER lame. I know. Before anyone leaves comments about how immature I was being, I KNOW! I really, really know. Heck, I have a Master’s degree in Marriage Family Therapy and I get it, I really do. But KNOWING it doesn’t always mean it is easy to APPLY it. 

In this moment I couldn’t APPLY anything because I was too busy LOSING it.

Let’s just say there was a heated conversation that ensued.

The point is, after Sarah said a few mean things and I countered with a few LAME, IMMATURE, WHO IS THE ADULT HERE threats… Sarah said this:

“Can I have a hug.”

I stopped everything, in an instant, and I hugged her. I went to her and I put my arms around her and I held her close and I said, “ALWAYS”.

We just hugged. No words. Minutes ticked by. We hugged. I used my arms to talk to her and to tell her that she was loveable, that she was worthy, that she was good, that she was more than good, she was PERFECT. I hugged until we could feel each others hearts beat.

My internal, unspoken rule is that I will not pull away from her. We can hug as long as she needs and wants.
Eventually she pulled away. 

“Mom, I am sorry for saying mean things.”

“Sarah, I am sorry for losing my cool, I love you always.”

We stayed quiet and for a little longer, and I twirled Ariel’s long red hair. It wasn’t time, yet, for me to teach her. I first needed to love her heart and her spirit. I can’t do that with words. We just needed to be still for a moment, together. 

She changed Cinderella into a different ball gown and when she finally spoke and asked to trade dolls, we started to talk. She still had consequences for whatever kid-thing she originally did, but she accepted them calmly. And more importantly, she is starting to get that if she gets in trouble, it doesn’t mean SHE is trouble. She is a good girl. A good girl that is growing and learning about life.

Since that day three years ago, Sarah has used the “Can I have a hug” technique several times. Sometimes we go for months and months without the need, and sometimes we are hugging every other day. But EVERY SINGLE TIME she uses it I am beyond proud of her.

That’s hard stuff!

There are adults that can’t tell each other what they need and will instead rant and rave and argue and carry on like three-year-olds. Not me, of course. Other adults. Quit looking at me, husband.

All this yappin' brings me to an scene a few nights ago.

You see, I have a lot going on in life (don’t we all!) and sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed. And when I get a little overwhelmed, SOMETIMES I might make a bigger deal than I need to out of something small. Like, let’s say, splashing water all over the floor during bath time. Just an example.

Sometimes something like water all over the bathroom floor might make me launch into a full blown, child-like rant about not appreciating what I do, not respecting our home.. blah blah blah. 

The words that may or may not have come out of my mouth in this hypothetical situation are embarrassing, really.  And I know it. But I can’t stop. I am a train wreck. I am unlovable, unworthy, awkward and twisted in every way. The bathwater isn't the problem. It's my tangled life.

Sarah, wide-eyed, listened, for a moment, and then she interrupted, quietly. Quiety, as if she had the same Masters I did and knew that if she talked quietly I would have to calm myself down and listen intently to hear her (smart girl).

And she said.

“Mom, do you need a hug.”

I needed it in the worst way. And she gave one to me… and somehow she even adopted my unspoken rule and she didn’t pull away.

Life is tough, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the to-do’s the expectations, the responsibilities of it all. Especially this time of year. 

There’s houses to clean, turkeys to prep, dishes to do, a perfect life performance to put on (pishaw!)…but before we all get to wrapped up in that secondary (third, fourth, and twentieth-ary) stuff, take care of the first and foremost need we all have – to love and be loved.

Slow down, focus up, and tend to the core of who we all are are, our heart and spirit. Don't be shy, ask for what you need. Use your words. Don't play the crazy charades that involves yelling, arguing, arm flailing (don't look at me like that, husband) and instead be clear.

In a soft voice, ask for the hugs. Hold on tight. Let the requester hug for as long as they need. When the hug is done and you have each had a little space to BE, then you can DO. 

PS - you always have someone that can hug you. Don't isolate. And guess what, likely, the other person can use the hug, too. 

With kindness,


Whimsy said...


Joan Gay said...

You are brilliant. I really like that word brilliant. It is like "Bling Bling" somehow. You know I love bling bling. I love you so much. I wasn't as wise as you when you were little. I didn't express my feelings or teach you how. I am unbelievably proud of you. I love you. Here is a pile of hugs. OOOOOOO and a few kisses XXX. Love, Mom