We are kind of a huggy family. “Good morning” and “Good night” and “See you after work; hope you have a good day” are all accompanied by a hug. My six-foot man-children regularly give me a hug just because, even in public.
I know this isn’t the norm for all families. I know there are some moms out there who wish for more hugs. Some people just aren’t comfortable with a lot of physical contact and a hug feels intrusive rather than affectionate. But for me, I like the easy exchange of hugs and shoulder pats.
When my older son was a baby and I was nursing him, I came across passage in the Bible that seemed odd:
“O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.”
Psalms 131:1-3 NASB
“Why,” I wondered, “does David talk about a weaned child? How could a child be any closer than my little one is while I’m feeding him?” But when at 23 months he had decided he was done with nursing, I began to understand. When he climbed into my lap and cuddled close, we experienced a new level of relational intimacy. He wasn’t coming to me to get his physical needs met, but his needs for security, comfort, love, belonging.
I never thought I would worry about too much hugging. When Nicholas was at his most symptomatic, though, I did. His deep depression was resistant to treatment, and on the worst days, either at home or when I would visit him in the hospital, his need for physical affection seemed over-the-top. Hugging every few minutes, sitting with an arm around me, putting his head on my shoulder, holding my hand. Was it normal?
I decided not to worry about it. With some kids, this attachment can veer into inappropriate behavior, but that wasn’t the issue. Nicholas needed extra reassurance. His illness made it hard for him to experience peace, or the truth of God’s love. I was right there, tangible. I became a conduit for the things God extends to us all:
A break from the matters too difficult for him.
Quietness for his soul.
As Nicholas got better with therapy and medicine and maturity, his need diminished. We are still a huggy family. Nicholas still reaches over to give my hand a squeeze and a swing when we are walking around somewhere. I love that.
And I love that he, and I, can climb into the lap of our Father in heaven, not because we are desperate for all the stuff He provides, but because we need to be close to His heart. We can rest against Him like a weaned child rests against his mother.