A couple of days ago I wrote about my deep appreciation for the apparently ‘little’ things people do that actually are not so little, but rather represent great love- and affection.
I have always been an affectionate person. My nickname in the lower years of high school was “Huggy Bear”, which I bore with great pride. I was well known for giving big, warm, full frontal, oxytocin-inducing bear hugs. None of these awkward half pat you on the back type “hugs”. If a friend tried to pass one of those off as a hug I would invariably demand a real hug and show them how. Showing affection and giving it freely has always been important to me, and is probably a mix of my innate nature and the way I was nurtured.
My father has always been demonstrative, towards us and towards mum. Mum took longer to become comfortable with overt affection and declarations of familial love. This was a product of her upbringing, which slowly changed over time. Conversely, dad was affectionate despite his upbringing. I always remember him being forthcoming with hugs, gentle pats on the back, a hand squeeze, a kind word. He still is. Some of my most cherished memories involve dad giving mum a cuddle and a little kiss, and looking at me to say, “Isn’t she lovely, your mummy?” or, “Isn’t your mother beautiful?” He still does this and it still warms my heart. My parents have certainly had their cranky moments and some quite spectacular arguments. But I have never doubted that at the heart of their partnership was, and always will be, genuine, profound love.
When Chab and I had our children, I wanted them to know that their parents, too, shared a deep love, respect and gratitude for each other. Chab is warm and tactile too, so it happened quite naturally that in our family is one for many small acts of affection woven into our daily goings-on. The hand resting comfortably on my knee while Chab’s driving- and vice versa. Absent-mindedly rubbing Phemie’s back while she tells a story at the dinner table. Gently holding my child’s face in my hands as I ask, feigning ignorance, if they know how much I love them, and drawing them in for a hug as they laugh and reply “Yesssss mama, we know”. What more can I hope for than this?
It’s funny that both girls are being brought up by the same parents in the same home with the same habits, yet Phemie is clearly naturally more reserved than Reina. I don’t shy away from sharing a rather chaste kiss (never passionate!) with my husband in front of the girls. I feel it’s important for them to witness. How they react is quite different though, with Phemie these days often squirming and loudly demanding that we STOP, usually with a wide grin. Reina however becomes a one girl cheer squad, screaming “Yes! YES! Kiss! KIIIIISSS!!!! Vava kiss mummy!”
While there is no such thing as perfect parenting, if there was, I’d be nowhere near running for first place. But giving and receiving affection freely and often is one area I know I’m helping set the girls up for positive, healthy, loving relationships. I often tell the girls just how wonderful their father is and how much I love him. (It seems I write about it a lot too!) I highlight the many small things he does for us all as they occur, explain exactly why this particular action or gesture is meaningful, emphasise the effort behind it, and the love that drives it. I’ve also told them that whoever they eventually choose to be their lifelong partner must treat them at least as well as vava treats treats their mama.
Reina still says she will have 80 husbands…. but she’s only 6, so I trust the message will get through eventually.