Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bear Hugs. Not Bare Hugs.

We all hug our babies. It's part of our motherly/fatherly instincts. Why? Because we love them. And they're so dang cute and cuddly. They also unequivocally need you when they're that age. We, as parents, are relied upon for our children's sustenance, a job the vast majority of us do not take lightly.

As they age, and we age, their independence grows. Soon they're toddling, walking, falling. I remember when Luke was about 2, and he fell down (I think it was) about 3 carpeted stairs down to our living room. He cried, naturally, but I called the paramedics. They came, sat him on the kitchen counter, did a basic neuro check, he had no scrapes or cuts to mend, and told me I was an overprotective mother, but that was okay.

The years progress. You hug them tightly the first day you leave them at pre-kindergarten, wondering how you could've left your child in the care of SOMEONE ELSE for 3 hours, when his babysitter up until that point had only been his grandmother, whom you trusted.

When he was 8, he came to visit me in rehab. How surreal that must have been for him, but he needed to be reassured that I was going to be okay and he would see me again soon. And he did, just days later when I was released.

Certainly, boys and their mothers (though I've never personally seen this with little girls and their fathers), at a certain point, in middle school or thereabouts, don't hug as much, if at all. I remember getting pats on the back and if Luke was feeling very generous, he'd touch his lips to my cheek as a "kiss that wasn't a kiss." This, I accepted as part of his maturation process. Suddenly, Mom was icky.

But then I started getting sick. Very sick. I was constantly in and out of the hospital, with a litany of maladies and necessary operations. I have this t-shirt I like to sleep in, a picture of mid 70's heroin'd out Keith Richards, which says, "Too Tough To Die." The day I had my hysterectomy in 2012, when Luke was 12, I asked if he could break his school's dress code and wear my t-shirt that day to school. The request was granted, and I knew from his teacher that he was nervous that day, asked if the class could pray for me and from my ex-husband that Luke was anxious that day and anxious to see me that night, after I'd had some time to recover. He has saved all of the hospital visitor passes he's received when I've been an inpatient.

I don't consider it to be a "mama's boy" scenario, or a helicopter parent thing, but I'd say in the last 6 months or so, he's reached out for a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek when we say goodnight. Last night struck me in particular. He was sitting at his desk at his computer, and I was prepared to just say goodnight and go into my room. He said, "Wait a sec." He rose from his chair, walked across the room and gave me a big hug. A tight hug. And this has been the case for quite some time. It is a warmth I welcome, because affection starvation is a very real thing. When you're not touched or held for a great deal of time, every hug, every hand-hold, every rumble/tumble becomes all the more important. Luke's become a big old teddy bear, and I couldn't be more happy. We're often cited by lots of people who can tell how close we are as mother and son. True, he is the most important person in my life. Not my mom, not my son.

And you can tell a genuine from an ingenuous hug instantaneously. I was so glad to hug BMF when we saw one another a couple of weeks ago, my body filled with joy. He was feeling huggy himself that night and even hugged Luke and commented on what a close relationship we obviously have.

Apart from my hugs from Luke and BMF, the last meaningful hugs I have received are from Meg and from POE, when we parted at the airport. Meg is a huggy bear like I am, and we always hug, and there is genuine love in all of those hugs. I hug members of my family, but those feel more obligatory than affectionate sometimes.

Those hugs from Luke? I never want them to end. Ever. I'm proud that I've raised a sensitive and warm young man who's not afraid to show his love and emotions. (I know he reads some of these blogs and I'm probably embarrassing the hell out of him.) I hope that when he moves forward in relationships, he is likewise as respectful and affectionately grounded as he is now, even more so.

Luke treats me with respect (sometimes) and I do as well (usually). Our offbeat relationship works. I'd challenge any single mother with a teenage son to show me how much fun, how many laughs, how many commonalities, and how many hugs she gets from her boy. I'm truly blessed to have such a phenomenal young man in my life, who makes me think every day that yes, I'd like to stick around for a while longer, even when I'm deeply depressed.


Someday, he's going to leave me...whether that's off to college, or to get married and have a family of his own (he damn well better not for a very long time).  I like to think that when we do get to see one another, those incredible hugs will still never cease. It's my fervent hope that he raises his own children to be as open with their affection as he has always been, even during those awkward years.

That's not to say he doesn't hug or love on his dad, though. Craig spent a lot more time playing with Luke as he grew up than I did. It's a guy thing...they just had a lot more in common to do (i.e. Legos, Star Wars, etc.) together than he and I did as he grew up. And they still enjoy the same hobbies--photography, radio broadcasting, all that sort of stuff.

So Craig and I both take some of the credit for the young man Luke is. But Luke, himself, has formed his personality. Nature/nurture. Keep hugging me, Luke. And I'll keep hugging you. We both need it.

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