“Can I sit on your lap?” my 50 pound six-year-old asked. I often wonder if people in my life mistake my soft-spoken voice, calm exterior, and friendly demeanor as evidence that I am comfortable being a ‘good mom.’
“…sure..?” I may have hesitated, but before I had the chance to react my son draped himself across my lap and tucked his head under my chin. I could feel my stomach warm and my heart beat a little faster. The truth is I struggle to be affectionate with him and in this moment I was surprised at how comfortable it felt to hold him. “Do you want me to read or would you like to read the next book?”
An hour and twenty minutes later, I was not feeling as comfortable. Fifty pounds is heavy. My head was swirling with contrived plot lines, one-dimensional alien characters, and really annoying dialogue. Eighty minutes of non-stop action (that he proudly read).
Did I mention this was over an hour? Fortunately, his classroom teacher would be proud of his accomplishment and my lovely spouse was chuckling in the living room, enjoying our little interaction.
Sharlene, my wife and fellow CTWM’s blogger, is more than aware of how much my family of origin struggles with affection. The Jaboin’s (immigrants from Haiti) learned English as a second language in the seventies, and speak “Sarcasm” as a third. When I decided to pursue social work as a career, I intentionally focused my practice experience to learn about young children and parenting. Please don’t get me wrong, I have an amazingly supportive family. However, we struggle with giving a simple hug.
When my children were first born, touching became the most important form of contact we had. I can admit that watching my wife nurse our son was incredible. I often felt like I was intruding though. This was an experience that took me years to really understand and I still struggle to communicate without embarrassment. When our daughter was born, two months early at two and a half pounds, touch was critical for everyone caring for her. If you are familiar with life in a NICU, both sides of our family took part in Kangaroo care (a process of skin-to-skin contact). We even spent more time cuddling and nurturing our then fifteen-month-old who was really struggling with the change in routine.
Even with the special medical needs of two young children, developmental delays, and long-term special needs I continue to be surprised by how ‘surprised’ I am by my ability to meet the emotional needs of my children. Remembering to give them both hugs every morning, whether they are grumpy or not and kisses every night: I have to practice over and over. It seems that practice does pay off in the end though.
“Can we read the rest of the book in bed?” my son jumps down from my lap and walks me to his room. He plumps the pillows and pulls me to sit behind him, resting his head on my chest to continue reading. It’s less of a surprise and feels more comfortable than just over an hour ago.
A really…really…long hour!