Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Will Hug For Food: My Practical Method for Loving Touch With My Children

Growing up with Dad in prison, my Single-Without-A-High-School-Diploma Momma struggled to raise three children alone. As a means of survival, we often lived with relatives who resented our being in their homes. It was a recipe for a childhood without affection.

My Visionary will tell you that (although I am growing in grace) I am not one to accept or make excuses. My childhood is not an excuse, but it explains why I have to work harder at remembering to be physically affectionate with my children. For some reason, I never had this problem with my babies and toddlers - I would happily smother my Little Ones with smooches and cuddles. Cuteness is it's own reminder.

When kids got bigger and busier, not always under my feet or at my side, it was harder to remember. When boys began smelling, well...like boys, it took more effort. Scurrying around the house always with an agenda to keep my head above water, it wasn't naturally a high priority - like so many other things, I would have to learn to make myself do it for the sake of my children. Sick of trying and failing, trying and failing, I cried out to my Father for ideas... methods that would help me remember to give the gift of loving touch to my kids. This is when I happened upon "paying for meals'.

 At Family Meeting one week, I announced that I would be requiring everyone to pay for their meals from now on. Not before the Has-She-Lost-Her-Mind faces melted, I explained that each person would be required to 'pay' one hug to each other person at the table before they would be allowed to eat. The Big Kids coughed that Surely-You-Must-Be-Joking nervous chuckle as their faces revealed their thoughts. "You want me to hug him? Gulp."

Despite the uncertainty of the children and my own misgivings about whether this would be yet another great idea that fizzled before it took strong hold, it worked. Should a fly be on the wall  in our home at mealtime, he would likely have a quizzical expression on his face (and wonder where he left his earplugs) as he was bombarded with at least five children simultaneously hollering:

"Hugs!"            "Cod Liver Oil!"        "Hugs!"                  "Hugs!"               "Elderberry Syrup!"       "Hugs!"            "Cod Liver Oil!"            "Hugs!"             "Elderberry Syrup!"    "Hugs!"
"Elderberry Syrup!"                "Cod Liver Oil!"                                   "Hugs!"
These reminders began after woefully realizing that we had been forgetting, more often than not, our daily doses of cod liver oil and elderberry syrup. The first person to remind us at breakfast was bribed with a quarter. If your home is like ours, you can imagine the chaos and noise  exuberance of the reminders. The babies loved having anything to holler simultaneously without being shushed, so it stuck for every meal.   

We did eventually get better at remembering our 'medicines'. Each person is now receiving a minimum of 27 hugs every day (even more when Dad is home), which is medicine in it's own right. (Those concerned that children in large families are neglected could never comprehend this. I wonder how many hugs they get each day?) It carries over into the rest of the day, too. Walls have been broken down between siblings and I have noticed a distinct decrease in personal space prickliness. I am even able to remember to do this in exasperating moments, as Mary's method for keeping the good moments good has been a blessing not as difficult to do as it once would have been.

We have kept this up for four months now...I'm encouraged! Ignoring my personal plan to, once I have discernible, regular progress in any area, raise the bar, I just want to sit in this one in all it's perfect simplicity and soak it up for a while longer. Yahweh remembers we are dust, He cares about every little detail, and He doesn't expect us to be perfect...just obedient. We are allowed to use 'cheats', reminders or CliffsNotes to help us obey. He is not a hard taskmaster...simple obedience is enough.

Thank you Abba, for one more evidence of your grace.



  1. What a good idea!

    Good for you!


  2. Thanks for posting that, I never did get the funny looks but when my children ask for anything I often tell them, "That'll cost ya" and then promptly pucker up!! I get all kinds of smooches and its wonderful!! My oldest son is now 9 and he prefers hugs, alots of times they are random out of the blue hugs, which of course are the best kind!!

  3. Julie,
    This post was a real blessing to me and one inn "due season". I have to be deliberate in showing affection to my older children too. (It wasn;t how we were raised...to say the least) I always gives hugs at bedtime, but recently felt that was "not enough". It is so easy for me to foget throguh the day. So I started a "morning hug" thing with my kids. I started declaring I need to get "my morning hug" from everyone each day. What a mood setter this was! I found that this also inspired more mid day hugs (coming ad going) as if they needed that "permission" or something. Weird, I know! They come to me with it now, as we all declare it is something we are "due" (in a good way). However, just last night after Shabbat dinner when the kids had gone to bed Ben and I were discussing bounding between the syblings (something most families may not think about, but our adopted daughters have brought this need/awareness into our midst. What a blessing!) We agreed that we needed to be more deliberate in some ways with seeing that team work/commrodery/service/devotion is really cultivated between themas syblings as we tighten our families strings of love. I LOVE this little idea that you have shared! I am going to share this post with Ben and see if he is game. :-)

    Thanks for posting it! Much Love, p
    p.s. Tell "Mr Visionary" we said Hi :-)


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