What we say
“Do you understand? Ok, now can Mommy have a hug? Good boy, go ahead and play.”
“Can you say sorry? Ok, now can you give our friend a hug?”
“Go give Grandpa a hug, now.”
“I’m sorry, buddy. Can I get a hug?”
What we mean
“Will you stop being mad at me?”
“You should express your (fake) love to this person.”
“I feel bad and I want to hug you to feel better.”
Or, most commonly, “I love you, I just also feel a bit insecure.”
These aren’t the worst sentences ever, but they’re not ones I’m ever going to add to my vocabulary. Here’s why: whenever we hug someone, we’re always either giving the hug, or taking it.
The effect on us
There’s a transference of energy–a giving and receiving. It may not always be felt by both parties, but it’s always there. I ask myself, ‘Am I initiating this hug mostly for my sake or for his?’ If it’s for my own sake, I need to really evaluate where my stability and security are stemming from. Am I truly rooted in Christ? Or am I just surviving off the love of my husband and kids?
The effect on them
But even more importantly, us being the givers of all those hugs can have a profound and blessed impact on our little ones.
I say it 17 times a day: “Can I give you a huggy, Eli?” And as I prayed about what to write on the blog this week, I was hit in the gut with a realization: my Daddy in heaven is saying the same thing.
“Drea, can I give you a huggy?”
I broke into emotional, ugly-face tears.
The idea that the one who I SO admire and SO desire would ask to give me a hug?
Dang. That hit me in the heart. I spent the next 15 minutes soaking up his presence and just receiving all his love. I imagined myself as the toddler and him as the Mama. I let him be the big person and me be the little one.
Then I had another realization: I probably didn’t get enough time as a child to be the little one.
For whatever reason, my heart wasn’t set up all that well to just receive from God like a little child, instead of feeling this insatiable need to perform for him. Instead of always wondering what I need to do–how I need to love HIM–in order to be fully accepted by Him, I should be wandering deeper and deeper into his love for ME, and allowing him to wash over and cleanse me with his love. Because it’s only really then that I’d be able to achieve anything for Him anyways…
So how does this apply to my 2-year-old?
If his heart can be so accustomed to receiving love from me, rather than having to give love to me, he will be so ready to jump into a healthy relationship with his true parent–his Daddy God. And as he begins his love-affair with Jesus and learns first-hand what it means to never be thirsty, the inclination and obsession with giving love to others will take root, and he will become a selfless, others-centered, godly young man.
Right now, I get to be the one that he SO admires and SO desires. So I also get to be the one always asking to give HIM a hug.
*What the research says
While I’m committed to communicating research findings in my writings, my terribly busy 2-year-old greatly limits my research time.
Here’s what I remember:
*Kids who are consistently shown empathy by their parents become the most empathetic adults. (Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina)*
So, when adults model loving behavior, such as empathy, to young children, it sets the stage for them to learn to exhibit that same loving behavior themselves.
This flies in the face of many parents who believe that if you focus too much on young children, it will just make them selfish. Actually, babies are born self-centered, and most kids naturally grow out of it provided that their needs are fully met so that they don’t feel the compulsion to continue focusing so intently on their own needs.
A person who doesn’t feel that their own needs are fully met will undoubtedly focus on themselves. (AKA: they have a lack mentality). The cure for a lack mentality is completely and utterly trusting the Lord and the Lord alone to satisfy you. (That’s not in the research. That’s in the Bible)
I hope to come back and add to the research section as my time allows, but I feel it will be several years before that will happen.
I guess I’m just spending too much time loving on my babies. 🙂