I was emptying my purse and transferring items to my satchel so I could go to the library to write when MK approached me.
I looked at him.
He looked at me.
I smiled at him.
He smiled back.
I arched my brows waiting for … something.
“Can I have a hug?” MK said.
I blinked. Since when did the boy have to ask for a hug?
Since he became a teenager, that’s when.
“MK,” I said, “you never have to ask for a hug. I will always give you hugs, no matter how old you are.”
He smiled and I opened my arms to him.
He eagerly walked into them.
I could feel a lump in my throat at his uncertainty. Was it normal for a 13-year old boy to ask his mother for a hug? Was I not giving him enough attention? Was I not giving him what he needed? Am I failing as his mother?
These questions ran through my mind as I hugged him. And I hugged him close to my side. Though MK has grown, he still fits perfectly under my arm.
I hugged him for long seconds. And because it’s part of who I am and how I react whenever I get emotional, I joked around with him.
“Is this becoming awkward?” I asked as I hugged him tighter to me. “Is this hug lasting too long?”
He chuckled and said, “Yeah.”
I reluctantly released him.
I used to hug and kiss on the boys all the time when they were little. They were so cute and oh so huggable – they liked the attention, it made them feel secure. And it felt good for me to have them so close.
But then they started school and the hugging stopped. Not entirely, but it was definitely less often. They were getting older and they no longer desired mom to do that “mom” stuff. They were spreading their wings, they wanted independence and I stepped back and gave it to them.
But then, not hugging them became a habit and I could probably count the number of times I’ve hugged my boys this past year on one hand.
Part of the problem lies with me. I’m not a physical person. It has taken me a long time to get used to and welcome physical contact with my husband. I couldn’t really tell you the reason I’m like this, I just am. This is just one aspect of my personality that I’ve had to work on over the years. It’s hard to explain – my personal space is my own, back off.
Part of the problem lies with them. They are teenagers now and they desire personal space. Whenever I’ve tried to touch them, I’ve been rejected, pushed away and I suppose after so many tries, I have given up. I was hurt by their rejection, but certainly not surprised. I remember rejecting my mother at this age – having mom so close felt suffocating; I’m sure they feel the same way.
But there have been times GD has needed a hug. I could just tell by his facial expression, the way he stood very close to me or by something he said, he’s needed me – I’ve gotten quite good at reading between the lines with him. And when those precious moments occur, I step in and initiate contact because I know in my heart he wants reassurance from me. GD has never asked for attention, but he hasn’t needed to. I’m sure there have been moments he wanted something from me and I wasn’t paying attention – I just hope those times have been few and far between the times he has needed me.
MK is a bit more forthright with his needs. He will flat out ask, like asking for a hug. And I can tell when he’s feeling neglected by the way he behaves at school. The only times we’ve ever had problems with MK’s attitude at school was when he felt like he was being ignored at home.
I know this because he has told me that was the reason for his strange behavior.
I’ve since made it my mission to carefully watch him for signs that he needs me.
It’s becoming harder to read the signs as he gets older.
I felt guilty when he asked me for a hug. Should a child ever have to ask for affection from his parents? The boys get hugs from their father on occasion, but it’s rare. Instead, they are more apt to slap each other on the shoulder or shake hands with their dad. I suppose it’s a man thing. But shouldn’t a mother freely give out hugs without being prompted?
I feel like I have failed them in some way.
It’s so hard to describe how your role as parent changes when your children hit the teenage years. The change is so subtle and happens so slowly that it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly when it happens or even what happens. Though I know that children growing away from their parents is a natural process, it’s still really, really hard to allow it to happen.
Letting go of my sons is by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I still haven’t fully released them yet. I suppose that’s a good thing in many ways. Though they crave to be adults and to have more freedom, there is still a big part of them that needs our guidance and expertise, and yes, even a hug from mom once in a while.