Are you a hugger? Does your family regularly hug each other to say hello or farewell?
Mine wasn’t. (showing feeling… of an almost HUMAN nature, this will not do) <— Pink Floyd “The Wall” lyric bomb.
My parents and siblings were all very hands off. Emotions on any range of the scale beyond neutral to mildly pleasant weren’t really encouraged. Don’t get me wrong, my parents used to joke about EVERYTHING, so there was lots of laughing, but there just wasn’t room in that household for extremes, or hugs.
I wasn’t used to hugging or being hugged in a casually familiar way. When I started working at a Montessori School, the ladies and gentlemen there were very tactile. (It was Montessori, what did you expect?) They were nurturing and supportive people who loved to hug. I had been recruited to this position by someone I had met while volunteering at the Chorus when #4 was only 6-7 years old. She was from a big Italian family and she hugged everyone for everything.
It was a unique experience for me and I have to say, a little nerve-wracking because I was never sure what I was supposed to do. Seems silly now, but at the time I had to conscientiously decide that I was going to work on my new hugging skills. I was going to allow people into my personal space and accept that they hug because they care. I can’t tell you how huge a step this was for me, but I was determined not to freak out every time someone moved in for a hug.
Slowly, over time, I learned to accept physical embraces from strangers and how to give them. My tenure with the school guaranteed that I always had someone to hug. I realized it could be a pleasant experience. Although always timid to initiate a hug, I got pretty good at being a gracious receiver.
When I left that job and started the one I have now, the hug quotient wasn’t nearly what it had been. I noticed that I started to revert and was reaching out to give hugs less and less.
Last night, I went to a production put on by a local high school and involving about 9 of our students. One of these happens to be the boss’s son, a boy I’ve known for most of his life. We saw him after the performance (he did a wonderful job) and I stopped to tell him congratulations before weaving through the crowd to leave the theater. He turned and made a brief move and when I didn’t swoop in, he just held my hand and said he’d see me Tuesday.
WTH? Why didn’t I just give that kid a big ol hug to let him know how sincere I was and how much I supported what he was doing? He would have appreciated it, I could tell.
So, note to self, no retracing lessons learned. Hugs are not always appropriate, but when they are, they are appreciated and make a difference.