Do You Want a Hug?

Rachel is 17. She has never been particularly affectionate. When she was younger, I could get an occasional cuddle out of her. But as she approached adolescence, affection became something she tolerated instead of something she craved. While her sister gives me a giant hug every morning on her way out the door, I have to be content with a gentle arm pat and an “I love you” as a farewell to my oldest child. I have done my very best to respect Rachel and to give her physical space. But here is the thing. I AM affectionate. Especially with my kids. I would let them crawl inside my bones if it were physically possible. This means in the case of Rachel, I spend a great deal of time sitting on my hands to keep from reaching out to touch her.

Earlier this week, a friend of Rachel’s passed away unexpectedly. I know my child, and I know this is breaking her heart. I know her heart will be broken for some time. And I know she will keep it inside. All I want to do is hug her sorrow away. Talk and hug, talk and hug. So what is a mother to do when her best form of comfort is not what her child needs? I DON’T KNOW… But here is what I did. I stayed quiet. I stayed close. And I listened. At first she didn’t say much. But eventually, I learned how she felt about her loss in the brief sentences she shared with me. I didn’t fix her sorrow, and I know she is still in pain. But here’s the hard pill to swallow… it is not my job to fix her feelings.

A wise man once told me (ok I will admit it, the wise man was my therapist) that it is unreasonable and unkind to think it your job to make people feel better. Especially when what they are feeling has nothing to do with your actions. I can’t fix Rachel’s pain. But I can stay close. I can sit on my hands and let her talk if she wants. Or stay silent. Because that’s ok too. But every so often, in the midst of the talking and the silence, I still ask her “Do you want a hug?” And every so often, I get a yes.

3 responses to “Do You Want a Hug?”

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