The sky is still dark out. Even the moon lies to rest. And for once I am awake and rested at this earlier hour. I am not a morning person, even the prospect of waking early for a powder day or some epic climb leaves me unenthused and coiled tightly around my bed covers. But awake I am and ruminating. Here is what I am ruminating on:
When I became pregnant I did what most freaked out and insecure women do…I grabbed a ton of books and read all about how to be a good parent. One thing that cemented in my mind?
Tell your kids you love them, everyday.
As motherhood led me down the road to one, two and three kids, and each kid inevitably grew older, I’ve told them “I love you,” everyday. Now I
mostly don’t regret it. But I wonder, did “I love you” lose its power? Here is how it goes down:
One kid or another clamors downstairs refreshed (or grumpy) from a night’s sleep and I say, “I love you!” And they stare back at me with blank, sleepy eyes. Or one kid hastily snatches a truck on the way to the backyard, I grab their attention, look them in the eye and say, “I love you!” And they respond with a “ugh huh” and bolt off into their imaginary land.
Sometimes I switch to, “I like you.” Because all of us at one time or another have thought, “Of course you love me [mom, dad, spouse]. But do you like me?” In the words of my favorite kid book, “I love you forever, I like you for always…” (Love You Forever, Robert Munsch)
But sometimes love can be spoken stronger, without any words. My friend and I used to joke that we could calm any fight with our husbands simply by laying a hand on their leg/shoulder/arm. All the frustration and anger seemed to melt away due to a simple touch.
Recently, I’ve been truly amused by the effect of touch on my younger son as we work on learning to read. Like most four-year-old boys he cannot sit in a chair to save his life. Often our lessons (though only 10-15 minutes long) are interrupted minute by minute by a ball sailing by the window, a rouge shadow dancing on the wall or even a left over crumb from breakfast that somehow in his mind looks just like Lightening McQueen. But no joke, I lay my hand on his back or shoulder, and he instantly focuses and starts reading his lesson! All I have to do is touch him and he starts learning! My husband has witnessed this new break through. In fact, I swear I can hear him purring when I stroke his cheek or ruffle his hair. Our only concern now is that in twenty years his wife or I will have to be in the board meeting with him touching him on the back in order for him to get anything done. 🙂 But we’ll work on that I guess… in time.
In a study of newborns, Tiffany Field, PhD, found that, “premature infants who were massaged for 15 minutes three times a day gained weight 47 percent faster than others who were left alone in their incubators – the usual practice in the past. The massaged infants also showed signs that the nervous system was maturing more rapidly: they became more active than the other babies and more responsive to such things as a face or a rattle.” (New York Times, Experience of Touch)
I’ve always thought my daughter was not so touch sensitive. If I reach out and touch her when she is angry, she is likely to punch me (not all that different from her mother :)). She wakes up and wants space. So I gave her space. And after sometime I thought, “I just don’t have her heart. It is cold towards me.” Later, she came to me and asked why I don’t hug or snuggle her like the other kids. Everything in me wanted to scream, “cause you don’t want me too!” But really this was a big-time mommy fail! Instead, I grabbed her into my lap and told her I’d love nothing better than to hug and snuggle her. Even our stubbornly independent kids need our touch, maybe even more so.
The Touch Research Institute* found that touch:
- Facilitates weight gain in preterm infants
- Enhances attentiveness
- Alleviates depressive symptoms
- Reduces pain
- Reduces stress hormones
- Improves immune function
The dark sky has turned to blue and a white halo is framing the Wasatch Front. It is time to set this aside, to go touch my kids and show my love. The good news? Proverbs tells me that, “Those who refresh others, will themselves be refreshed.” For every touch of love I give, I also get. 🙂
(*The Touch Research Institute was formally established in 1992 by Director Tiffany Field, Ph.D. at the University of Miami School of Medicine via a start-up grant from Johnson & Johnson.)