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The Power of HUGS

 Letís get right to itÖ

  Today I want to tell you about my secret weapon Ė the HUG.  Yes, you heard correctly, I said I want to talk about hugs.  Donít get the wrong impression, especially you first time listeners, I assure you that I am still very much the same guy Iíve been from day one.  After I record this I promise Iíll be off consuming a quantity of beef or pork suitable for a man my size especially since my little terror has just been tucked in for the night and Iíll be able to eat in peace.   I may even throw a Kielbasa link on the George Foreman Grill for good measure.  Fry some onions, or something.  Aw who am I kidding?  Itís grilled chicken and salad for me tonight.  I need to lose a few pounds.  But I do think I deserve something after the long day I had.   Iíll briefly give you the highlights.

 After breakfast Shalawn and I went to one of those huge chain stores that specialize in everything related to children.  There we purchased a new booster child restraint seat for the car, a new potty training seat because it seemed to be more interesting than the one he already has, and a few other knick knacks.  We spent so much money that we earned ourselves a free stroller.  Back at home I tried to read the manual to the booster seat and almost threw myself down a flight of stairs because I felt like I was reading the French instructions (and I donít speak or read French). 

   I think it was more me being a little paranoid than anything else because in the back of my mind I understand that if I fail to install the booster seat properly my childís safety is compromised.  Paranoia aside, the seat didnít get into the car and Iíll tell you why: the one thing I fully understood from the instructions on the old car seat, which I pulled from my file as a point of reference, was that Devin is one pound, and about a half an inch short of officially needing the new car seat.  That was good enough for me - Iíll live to install another day.  

      Next Devin and I debated the importance of listening to his parents.  We got into the debate after he told me to stop reading the manual, apparently because he thought I should be getting ready to go to the museum and not reading.  His argument against listening to his parents consisted of taking the instructions to the new car seat and grinding them into the carpet as if he was putting out a cigarette and eventually throwing them down the aforementioned flight of stairs.  My argument was a little less dramatic and boiled down to me being the father, so he was given a timeout and I told him we were not leaving the house until he picked up the manual.  With his motherís guidance he agreed to retrieve the manual from the bottom of the stairs and returned it to me.  Once that was out of the way he announced to me and Shalawn that he ďfelt better,Ē which made us feel better, and a little manipulated.  Finally, we made our way to the Brooklyn Childrenís Museum where fun was had by all and tantrums were minimal for the most part. 

            Anyway, back to HUGS.

Do any of you remember the first time you were hugged?  We all remember our first kiss, the first time we rode a bike, our first paycheck, yet like your first steps and your first word, the first hug is long forgotten.  A hug is one of the most common and basic human interactions that I can think of and can send countless messages without you saying a word.  A hug can mean glad to see you, Iím sorry for your loss, I love you, goodbye, wassup, or any combination thereof.  A hug can be two bodies coming together and completely connecting in a very intimate embrace, or it can be more formal where just upper bodies touch and hearty pats on the back are exchanged.  You can even have a group hug, which is pretty much just a silly way for a bunch of friends to admit that they like each other without saying it.  Whatever way you do it, hugs communicate a positive feeling, of comfort, support closeness and familiarity.

 Do you see where Iím going with this?   

 Most often when a father hugs his child itís one of those ďway to go!Ē or ďarenít you the cutest little thing!Ē or ďshow me where it hurtsĒ hugs and is spontaneous.  We donít really plan on hugging our kids, we just do it and move on.  The childís response is usually a smile, sometimes a giggle and she walks away from the moment feeling loved and comforted.  But you can never fully appreciate the true power of a hug until you make a conscious decision to give your child a hug the next time she is totally out of control in the throes of a tantrum.  In my humble opinion the hugís power seems to be more potent when you donít really know why your kid wonít stop screaming.  It is also powerful when you know the source of your childís erratic behavior yet somehow you cannot verbally convince her that you understand her feelings.

 Hereís an example situation where the HUG might work:

Itís a beautiful Saturday morning, and your little living breathing alarm clock is calling your name. He invites you to get out of your warm bed to play.  You graciously accept the invitation because you are good dad, and maybe even husband, and you spend the next hour pushing toy cars and trains around your childís bedroom while your co-parent catches a few more ZZZs.  You even harmonize a couple of songs about teapots and wheels on busses.  Inevitably your energized playmate asks for something to eat.  You decide that oatmeal is a good, healthy choice and to show good faith you make enough for yourself too.  You and your toddler eat together and you are amazed by how little mess he makes these days when eating.  When your bowls are empty and your stomachs full, the kid asks for a cookie. 

You smile and gently remind him that it is too early in the morning to eat cookies.  You ask if heíd like juice or milk instead.  He then moves right into the first meltdown of the day, begging for cookies like a starving orphan that didnít just eat a bowl of oatmeal.  Eventually the words ďI want cookieĒ become indecipherable screams and you find yourself at a crossroads with a very important decision to make.  You can either punish the kid for wanting a cookie at 9 am by giving him a timeout where heíll scream until he gives up.  The other option is to give him a hug and tell him how you know he likes cookies, and you know he is sad and angry that he canít have a cookie, and that you are sorry he feels that way.  Personally, Iíd go with the hug.  Keep in mind that it works best when you hug him until he noticeably calms down, which may take a couple of minutes.

             Iím not 100% sure why it works, Iím just confident that it does.  I guess it works for the same reason that every other sincere hug works Ė the intimacy of it cannot be denied.

 

I want you guys to try it when you think it may be appropriate and let me know how it goes.  I can be reached at keith@malecare.com thatís k-e-i-t-h @ m-a-l-e-c-a-r-e.com.  For those of you that donít know Malecare Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to menís health and family issues from the male perspective.

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