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My Daughter Might Not Hug You, and That’s OK

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There’s a lot of information swirling around on the web about allowing our daughters to take ownership of their own bodies. Until I had one of my own, these thought pieces were important to me, but never really hit home.

The fact that my motherhood is coinciding with such an important time for women’s rights in our country is not lost on me. I feel that, more than ever before, maybe the road ahead of my girl is going to be a little better, a little smoother.

But it starts today.

Yes, even when they’re toddlers. Even if they don’t know what their ankle is called, keep putting their shoes on the wrong feet, and can’t hold a pencil.

Even if they don’t understand and can’t comprehend everything magical and incredible that their bodies can do, they should still have the right to discern what they don’ t do.

And yes, well-intending family member, that means my three-year-old might let you leave without a good-bye kiss or hug. In fact, she might go on weeks-long affection strikes and not even glance up when you leave, or even when I enter the room.

Because the thing is, it’s my job to teach her, and I can’t hesitate.

It starts when she still fits in the crook of my arm, and isn’t quite big enough to sit in an adult chair at the kitchen table. It starts when she still can’t say her words exactly right and thinks that we can go to Target to buy spacesuits and rocket ships (except not on Mondays and Wednesdays, she insists, because Target is closed then).

We have to nip forced contact in the bud when she’s little so she doesn’t expect it when she’s not.

Think about it. You might not remember every single detail from when you were younger, but the lessons you learned back then still stick with you. How to ride a bike. Your ABCs. Walking.

They’re practical life skills engrained in our psyche that we perform every single day without even realizing it. It hurts my mama heart to think that my daughter (or my son) could look at hugging and kissing others as a rote move, something she does without even realizing it.

Because it’s cute right now. She’s wearing her Paw Patrol shoes and pigtails and she’s literally one giant hug. I know, trust me. I know she’s got a heart busting at the seams and a grin ten miles wide and all you want to do is sweep her into your arms and swing her around.

But I can’t let you do that, and please don’t hate me.

I just don’t want her to think this is how the equation works:

Senior person is needy. Senior person wants affection from me. I provide that affection. Senior person is happy again!

When you look at it on paper, it looks kind of off, right? Of course, plenty will tell you I’m taking this way too far and it’s just a hug from her great-grandma. Where’s the harm?

There might not be any right now, but just the idea of it occurring in the future is enough to make me cry in the bathtub at midnight. I carry this child so tightly against me and for 10 really great months, we shared a body. We’re connected spiritually and physically and I feel wholly responsible for making sure both her spirit and body are kept in tact.

Because she’s two now, but I can see her when she’s 22. She’ll still have my thin hair but maybe by then she’ll have grown into her papa’s dimples. She’ll be working and learning and reaching and growing.

I want her days to be spent taking long bubble baths and reading really great books. I want her to discover her favorite band and drive across the country to go see them play live. I want her to taste of this life and see how very, very good it is.

I don’t want her to be broken in any way, or to experience the darkness that lies just past the line of amicable affection.

Recently, there’s been a wave of women finding their voices. From the #metoo movement to the allegations against some of media’s most powerful celebrities, local sexual harassment lawyers across the nation have never seen so much work.

If I was somehow blind to the plight of the multitude until now, forgive me. The only problem is, now my eyes have seen too much.

The ironic part about this? Kids are the most freely loving and giving creatures we could ever hope to love. They scatter affection around like confetti and don’t think twice about letting a stranger pat them on the head. They’re teaching us every day that love abounds and that we should share it.

I recently told my daughter, “It’s OK if you don’t want to kiss grandma. You can if you want to, but it’s up to you. You totally don’t have to.”

She looked up at me like I had just told her Elsa and Anna weren’t real. She was confused and I could almost see that little wheel in her mind turning at rapid speed.

“OK,” she said quietly, and for a second I regretted saying anything.

But I’d rather her endure a slight moment of confusion than a lifetime of what-ifs. So please don’t take it personally if she keeps playing with her crayons when you tell her good-bye, or if she doesn’t run to greet you when you enter the room after some time away.

She’s not cold, and it’s nothing you did. She still loves you.

I’m just teaching her how to love herself, too.

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