Last Saturday we had company coming over so I began to look at my house and yard with fresh eyes, as you do when you know someone else is going to look at it with their fresh eyes. This led me to a last minute scramble of pulling out all the dead sunflowers in the front flower bed, and planting pansies, a small tree, and a few other small flowers. I knew none of my guests would notice, but that's okay because I was really doing it for myself anyway.
I planted the pansies on Saturday and watered them the first few days, but then forgot to water them for the next two. Trying to grow plants has taught me a lot about myself, and I've discovered that I do much better at caring for things that can make noise and remind me to care for them. (I think I just had some insight into why my kids are so noisy!) Anyway, this morning I looked at the pansies in the flower bed and what I saw was pitiful. The poor flowers were lying on the dirt, as if they had no strength to hold their heads up. They were almost human-like in their despondency, I could see their extreme thirst on their petal faces. I immediately got out my hose and gently surrounded them with water and then went on with my day. A few hours later I went to check on them and was amazed at how they had perked up. They weren't quite standing strong and tall, but they were working on it. Hopefully the forecasted rain this weekend will give them the rest of the strength they need.
As I was watering the pansies, I thought about being a mother, as I basically always do. When my pansies had been ignored and not given what they needed, they showed it by lying feebly on the ground. When children aren't given what they need, they show it. They rarely act despondent (or maybe that's just my kids), rather they act out and search for whatever sort of attention they can attract--even if it's the bad kind. They say the child that needs the most love is the child that seems to least deserve it. That kid that's picking fights, throwing toys, crying at the drop of a hat, the kid that you want to lock up in their room? That kid needs more love.
I read recently that children need twelve hugs a day from their caregivers. Twelve! I have 4 kids...so 4 x 12 = 48. Forty-eight hugs that I should be giving out EACH DAY! That's a lot of hugs for a person like myself who generally doesn't like to be touched. Since reading that I've been making a more conscious effort to hug them each more throughout the day. I'm not keeping count because I'm pretty sure with a few of them I'm not even coming close to twelve a day simply because I see them less during the day, but I'm trying to remind myself constantly to hug them. When I walk into a room, I find one I haven't hugged in awhile and hug them. I don't make it a big production, sometimes it's just a little pat to let them know I'm aware of them and love them.
Now, for my own sake, some things I've learned/remembered during my hugging experiment these past few days.
Alexis: I've always known she needs physical touch to feel love. Though she is 10, she still loves to snuggle up to you and talk to you. When you're hugging her she'll talk, but unlike her typical conversation, she'll ask about you and show an interest in things outside of herself. (I'm not calling her self centered, she's just a kid and they're pretty much focused on themselves by nature.)
Tyler: He has always been one of the best huggers ever. He's quiet and just leans on you for quite awhile, especially in the morning. He never objects to my request for a hug. He's not the greatest communicator, so for him, hugs are essential.
Ryan: Ryan basically never stands still, so hugs are short, but important because as the third child he tends to get lost in the shuffle. He doesn't like his back scratched, but if I'm really lucky he'll rub my arm or play with my hair when I'm holding him.
Connor: This kid easily gets hugged two or three times the "necessary" amount each day. All I have to do is sit down on the ground, with my legs spread out in a v in front of me, hold my arms out and call his name and he walks right into me for a hug. He loves them, I love them, so I'll stock up on them while I can.
As a mom to four, I often have my hands full trying to meet all their physical needs (cooking, cleaning, laundry, bathing, etc.), but on the days where I'm being a proactive parent and seeking to meet their emotional needs, I have my arms full too. And that's the best kind of full.
(I almost hesitate to hit the "publish" button on this post, only because I don't know if I'll have more. Will it be another seven months before I post again? Or will it happen next week? No one knows...)