In the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, these words: “Hug your child today” have taken on a new meaning. We send our young children to what we think is the safest place on earth, and find it can be the source of unfathomable tragedy. And I put on the tough veneer that what happened can be explained in words that my children can process, like “sick brain” and “shooter,” without explaining details that would shake their worlds and psyches as it has done to us adults.
I stand at the bus stop with my special needs son, who argues with me each morning on the words that I have used or if I have mispronounced something in haste. His penchant for preciseness is also mine, so this is payback times two. You can hear me trying to get out of circular, repetitive questions and answers that can border on the absurd, with his own brand of highly entertaining non-words. So our neighborhood jogger often witnesses me at my wits-end, as we near the end of our two-hour or more language and “self-help skills” morning routine struggles, that include difficulties with dressing, brushing teeth and hygiene.
So there I was, a victorious mom of child who just received a spit bath on a cold winter day, receiving the wrath from a child who suffered from looking presentable for school. And my jogging neighbor stopped in her tracks – and in tears, told me to “hug my child today.”
I am trying to live by the words, “be kind instead of right.” A whole community, a whole nation, is mourning for the sweet souls of Newtown. I listened as she shared her heartache and desire to hold her 20-something boys. I wish that I could hug my child. I tried that Friday, when so many Newtown parents lost the second chance to do so. My son bounded off the bus in high spirits, and I asked, “How was your day?” and he avoided me with the skills of football player dodging a tackle.
I often do try to sneak in some unsuspecting kisses or hugs. My son is adorable and melts my heart every single day. But he won’t let me touch him. He responds to a light kiss on his head as if blocking a punch. A soft touch means his body will reflexively jump out of harm’s way. A hug can bring on struggle that only "tickle torture" brings on for typical kids. We do get our cuddles in somehow – watching tv, he will practically sit on top of any of us family members, hard elbows and knees and feet jabbing you when you least expect it. So we use lots of blankets and pillows on the couch. He falls asleep, and my husband and I will often use that moment to kiss his forehead, get a good snuggle and hug in, and let him sleep in – not peace – but chaotic movement.
So the bus nears, the jogger jogs, and my son stands 10 feet away from me, just in case I happen to see more breakfast on his cheeks. “Have a good day” – and he climbs the bus steps. I wave to him as he sits on the bus. He doesn’t look at me and doesn’t wave. Yes, I want to hug my child today.