Here’s the thing.
I have found that as kids get older, there are fewer reasons and opportunities for snuggling and hugging and giving kisses.
I mean, the opportunities are there, but they aren’t as obvious.
When you have a baby, you’re constantly holding and snuggling. The baby needs you all up in his business at all hours of the day since he can’t really do much else anyway. Hold, kiss, soothe. Hold, snuggle, sway. Change diaper—kiss cheek. Feed baby 100,000 times a day—hold through it all. Bathe baby—caress dimples in ankles. It’s just the way it goes. And while it’s exhausting, it’s also glorious.
When you have a toddler, you’re kissing owies and hugging away worries and fears. You’re wiping dirty faces and sneaking in kisses. You’re rocking to sleep or holding on your lap during a movie. You’re hugging when feelings are hurt, you’re holding hands to cross the street, and you’re planting kisses while you buckle into car seats.
But when you have an 11-year-old? Well, there’s a lot of talking and hanging out. Also a lot of commanding and arguing. (Workin’ on that over here.)
But your 11-year-old doesn’t come to you in tears over scratched knees. She doesn’t hide behind your legs when she’s nervous. She doesn’t reach her arms up to you to be carried on a walk. She doesn’t need you to buckle her into her seat or wipe her mouth. She orbits in her own little, independent world.
And if touch isn’t your #1 love language, it’s easy to forget to touch your child enough.
I realized this one day when I was helping my 4-year-old son, Rex, get buckled into his car seat. We giggled back and forth as our faces were close to each other, and before I walked around to the driver’s side, I planted a kiss on his cheek. He grinned.
In the short walk to my seat, I realized he and I have more opportunities each day to be near each other than his older sisters and I do. I still wrap a towel around him after a bath, he still needs help with a button or a shoelace, he still needs help with his chores, I still prepare his snacks for him, and more. And I’m often kissing or hugging him in these—and other—interactions. But his sisters do all these things on their own. It’s like we’ve had those opportunities for connections removed from our big-kid relationships.
By the time I reached the driver’s side, I was ready to make a change. My 11-year-old, Lydia, was sitting in the seat behind mine, so I flung open the door and told her, “Rex gets all my kisses because he needs help buckling. That isn’t fair to you!” And I kissed her cheek. She giggled, so I kissed her other cheek and gave her a hug.
She loved the attention, closed the book she had been about to lose herself in, and promptly talked my ear off.
I now do this more often. I try to notice an opportunity I’m getting with Rex that I’m not getting with my older kids—maybe he needs help squeezing the toothpaste on his toothbrush and I kiss the top of his head on the way out. And then I seek out an older kid and give them a hug.
I never thought hugs would decrease, but it’s alarming to me how it just naturally happened. Making a conscious effort to include more snuggles and hugs in each day means I have to be aware of what I’m doing—or not doing. That’s not always easy for me, but I’m determined to hug my way through this transition.
And nobody is protesting the extra attention.
QUESTION: Have you experienced a drop-off in opportunities to hug and snuggle as your kids have grown up?
CHALLENGE: Make a point to have some snuggle time with your kids this week, no matter their ages. Also consider figuring out the main love languages for your kids, your spouse, and yourself so you can focus on showing love in a way that is best for each member of your family.
This article originally appeared on Rebecca’s blog here. If you click on over to the article, you can get her free email series, “3 Ways to Feel Like a Better Mom This Week.” Rebecca fully understands how awful it feels when life is a constant battle with the kids and it seems like you’re just messing up left and right. (Psst! You’re not messing up! She promises!) With three actionable tips you can implement THIS WEEK, you’ll form deeper connections with your kids, see better behavior from everyone, and feel better as a mom.