I remember once seeing a documentary about patterns of aggression in primates. [I really don’t remember what it was about, but ‘patterns of aggression’ sounds better than, ‘I saw a show about monkeys.’]
A chimpanzee was placed in a room along with a white-suited doctor, who would shower him with hugs, snuggling, and generally warm and fuzzy feelings. Then the white-suited doctor was replaced by a black-suited doctor, who wrestled, tumbled and noogied the chimp into exhaustion.
When both doctors were placed in the same room, the chimpanzee would switch between the two suits, depending upon his mood.
Which brings me to Ian. I’m a very physically affectionate person – I love to hug and be hugged, and I absolutely love to snuggle. At three- or six-months old, kids really don’t have a say in snuggling. They just sorta have to take it; their only defense is various bodily fluids, and even those run dry after a while.
There is no defense from grandmothers.
When he was a baby – and I’m struggling with the fact that he no longer fits that description – my favorite part of the day was the Daddy Nap. I loved to have him curled on my chest, fists clenched beneath him. Daddy Naps are very, very rare, but sometimes he’ll fall asleep in my arms. Whenever he wraps his arms around my neck, my heart melts.
Now that Ian’s
walking running flying, it’s hard to get him to hold still long enough to take the scissors away from him, let alone exchange hugs. But there’s always time for Mommy. Seemingly at random, he’ll veer off course and give Kelly a quick hug in passing, or will crawl into her lap, head on her chest. He’ll motion toward me while in her arms, then change his mind in mid-air, turn around, and hug her again.
Because I’m never happy, this bothered me for a while. Of course I knew it didn’t mean that he didn’t love me. I just really, really like hugs, especially from Ian. I wasn’t sad, or anything, just in need of some TLC.
But I’m the black-suited doctor. My role is to make Ian laugh and squeal. When he and Kelly pick me up from work, the first thing he does is grin and tense his body – he pulls away from me, as if he’s waiting for something. Which is when I chew his face off and let my fingers find every ticklish part of his body.
When Ian finds me in the house, he’ll quickly turn around and run, making sure that I follow. Sometimes he gets so excited that he’ll forget about gravity (and physics in general) and eat the floor, or smack into a cabinet. Though he never seems to mind.
I was carrying Ian to bed last night, and as I laid him in the crib he smiled and tensed his body. ‘What?’ I asked. He giggled. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ I said. He snorted. So I ate his face.
That’s what happens when I don’t get my hugs.