Sunday, November 09, 2014

Attack of the Little Tiny Personal Space Invaders

Staying at home with a two year old involves a lot of physical contact with another human being.  I love his squeezy hugs and sloppy kisses; they melt my heart away.  I love holding him in my arms while he sleeps - if I have nothing else to do, or want to nap with him. But by the time my daughters get home from school, I'm pretty "touched out". I've had Jaguar clinging to my legs, reaching up for me to hold him, crawling all over my lap, and coorieing in as if trying to somehow get back inside my womb all day long. My girls come home and want hugs too, which is fine, and I'm happy to oblige.  But sometimes the girls, especially Lolly, want to coorie in too, sitting half on top of me for long extended cuddles, and I'm ashamed to say this drives me crazy.

Often times I tell her to please move or to give me space. If I'm already in a less than patient mood, I might be brusque about it. She'll often snuggle up next to me while I'm sitting in my armchair and wiggle her little head up underneath my arm to get right in as close as possible. Often this is while I'm on my laptop doing something (not necessarily important) and I kind of need my arm. It drives me up the wall. Sometimes I'm not very patient with her about it. 

I like my space. I get claustrophobic in tight crowds, I get restless without adequate elbow room and breathing space. I love hugs and kisses just as much as the next person, but they have a time limit, and I kind of prefer them to be on my own terms.  At night, I like to have Scott to cuddle up next to me for a few minutes and then scoot away. During the day, I like Jaguar to hug me for a few minutes then run off and play. Luckily, Scott is willing to scoot, but my kids are not always so willing to run off.

I know it's important for parents to have their personal space; after all, we are people too with boundaries and individual needs. All too often, however, I forget that my children are also people, who have hidden insecurities and the need for physical contact.

I read something today about a woman taking in a troubled teenage girl and how hard it is to meet her needs. The advice overwhelmingly included lots of physical touch and one-on-one time. Suddenly I began to feel very guilty.

I find it so hard to share my personal space with clambering children. I have to share it all day with a toddler who will scream and throw a fit if I deny it to him, so by the time my other two kids get home from school, I don't want to share it anymore. They don't usually scream or throw a fit about it, so I don't think twice about asking them to move away. Yet in their minds, what is my refusal to cuddle with them telling them?

In their minds, though they are not screaming or throwing a fit, are they thinking I don't love them? Are they thinking I don't like being close to them? Are they thinking I don't have time for them or want them? Are they being made to feel unwelcome in my arms?

I never want them thinking that, especially as the vulnerable, insecure preteen years are quickly approaching. I am always thinking of ways to let the kids know that I am there for them, available to them, always willing and open to talk to them. My body language, however, probably gives a very different message.

I started writing about this post yesterday. As I was writing, Lolly woke up and came straight to my chair and curled up next to me. I reached around and hugged her, kissing her head, letting her snuggles linger. I stopped writing and drew my little girl in close, and just enjoyed a few moments of close, loving contact.  Fi noticed the attention her sister was getting, and when Lolly got up, Fi came in for hugs.  I sat for several minutes longer hugging her.  Jaguar started crying, jealous of the attention the girls were getting.  It was exhausting, but for a few minutes, I sat patiently with one child under my arm, another child on my lap and another child curled up on the ottoman hugging my legs.

I can't do everything right and I can't change my need for space, but I must start making an effort to extend more loving touch to my children. Even when it physically makes my body cringe, they need my physical presence and I need to give it to them. The message I send them really is more important than my personal boundaries sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:07 PM

    Don't feel bad, by the time I get home from work I'm so tired and anxious, especially if traffic has been bad. Poor Mike is usually ready for me to jump in feet first. I feel guilty a lot of days because I just want a few minutes, before starting dinner, tidying etc. There are times when I want to sneak kids to bed early because I'm so tired, there's another feeling guilty. Like you I'm into hugs and kisses but not super long embraces. I've been working on this and trying to remember that all we can do is our best. You rock it out girl, you're doing great!!!---Love Alice!!


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