Video Sharon Shostak
How affectionate are you? I have always considered myself to be an affectionate person, but lately I’ve been noticing that perhaps I’m not as emotionally demonstrative as I have previously thought. I hug my children fairly regularly. Maybe not every day. But at least once or even twice a week. In my mind I hug them every day, but in reality I don’t get to it much more than that.
They get harder to hug when they are teenagers; you have to hunker down and get them in some sort of military grip. Kind of like a tackle without the release. Of course I hug my four-year-old. A lot. She sleeps with us most nights so she’s using up most of my affection for the world quota.
When I walk past my husband I’ll touch him. Not in a gropey way. More of a gentle running of the fingers across his back followed by a small push to get him out of the way so I can proceed with my course of action.
I kiss them all goodnight. I always do that. It’s become such a ritual in our house that the brushing of lips against cheek is as practised as a handshake. ‘Night, Love you,’ uttered like a small oft-repeated prayer, but with the same sentiment as the girl at the Woolies checkout delivers: ‘How are you today’.
Of course I love them. (My kids, not the girls at Woolies.) But do I show it enough? I’m starting to worry that I’m not quite the warm cuddly mumma bear that I like to see myself as. I was listening to a motivational speaker some time ago and she suggested that many of us are not ‘present’ when we are being affectionate with our kids. That we’re caught up thinking about the next thing we have to do and the thing after that and delivering affection is just another job we have to tick off the list before we get on with the shit we have to do.
I am certainly guilty of that. The other day my husband was loitering in the kitchen making ready to leave for work, waiting for an opportunity to kiss me goodbye and I’m like ‘In a minute; I just have to wash out this bin’. Really? I have to wash out a bin before I show love to the people I hold dearest? Even to a hardened old cynic like me that seems a bit harsh. Although the bin did require my immediate attention. I made a note to self. ‘Always kiss husband before washing bin.’
The speaker made a suggestion when referring to hugging one’s children. ‘Be the last one to pull away,’ she said. I thought about my child hugs. Perhaps I was the one who broke first. I’d never thought about it. So I tried hanging in there. The first time I hugged my son I kept hanging on. It went forever. I thought he was enjoying the affection but as it turned out I was suffocating him with my ample bosom. He wasn’t overly impressed with my new ‘giving’. In fact his feedback wasn’t what I was expecting. ‘That’s really creepy, Mum.’
Maybe we’re not overly affectionate people. We hug. We kiss. But it’s a brush past, it’s never been one of those traffic-stopping hugathons that you sometimes witness around here. I’ve tried holding hands with my kids in public. They’re not that into it. They’re like ‘Mum, stop touching me’. I’ve seen people holding hands with their children and I’ve never quite been able to work out whether it’s incredibly touching, or a bit disturbing. There’s a fine line between a beautiful heart connection and suffocating overdependence.
I’ve never been a big fan of over-the-top romantic affection in public. I’ll hold hands with my husband from time to time when we’re walking, or even give him the odd peck. But lining up one of those tonsil-ripping tongue jobs just seems a bit too porn for the street. I’ve seen people all over each other and I’m definitely on the ‘get a room’ side of the fence. It’s uncomfortable being in the presence of people who clearly want to rip each other’s clothes off and bonk their brains out. I’ve been sitting in a public park trying to eat my sausage sandwich while a couple rolled around on the grass grinding and writhing. It’s disgusting. And I’m very, very jealous.