"How To Be A Better Hugger" And Other Life Lessons From My Baby


Parents spend so much time and energy thinking about the things we want to teach our children, when a simple moment of reflection reveals all of the things they’re teaching us. Whether she knows it or not (honestly, I think she knows), my Little Magician is currently running a masterclass on affection, being genuine, and saying what you mean and meaning what you say.


Hugging was never really my thing. I maintain my personal space quite stringently, and have never really been able to free myself up as much as others do when it comes to handing out hugs. I’ll give you the BEST side hug ever, and I really mean it when I do - but going for the gusto with a full-on bear hug is something I do very rarely.

I guess things with personal space loosen up a bit when you’ve grown a human being inside of you.

The older she’s gotten, the better LM has become with her hug delivery. When we’re saying goodnight, when she wakes up in the morning, when you pick her up and carry her, and any moment that she totters towards you with arms outstretched, she hands out the most love-filled hugs.

They surprise me at times - her baby grip is not to be messed with, and she lets you know if you attempt to pull away from a hug before she’s ready to disengage. The only thing better than feeling her tiny arms around my neck, a fat cheek either pressed against mine or buried in my neck, is when she takes her two hands, purposefully puts them on the sides of my face, and pulls me close for a quick kiss. She reminds me that closeness and showing affection aren’t things I need to fear, and she helps to pull my wandering, wheels-always-turning mind out of the sky and into the moment we’re in.

Being Genuine

If you greet LM, you’ll receive a most heartfelt “Hi!” in response. She takes a deep breath and turns a monosyllabic word into a melodic wave, starting off high-pitched then letting the “i” tumble down a few notes, always ending in a beaming smile. She says it like she means it, and says it like she’s genuinely happy to see you - and dammit, her “Hi!” makes you feel good.

She’s the most genuine human being I know, likely because she doesn’t know how to be any different. Aside from the little tricks she pulls where she uses her cuteness to get one more snack, or to try to keep playing when it’s time for bed, she doesn’t fake the funk with anything. I’m trying to be more like her and infuse my “Hello!” and “How are you doing?” with more sincerity. She reminds me that sincere acknowledgement - one person truly seeing another - isn’t as common as we think it is.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

Similarly to how genuine her “Hi” is, LM pulls no punches when she likes or dislikes something. She’s only 16 months, so we have some time yet before we can finesse her social skills - but right now I love seeing how definite she is when she likes or wants more of something, or when she never wants to see or do something again. She’s down to pretty much try anything once, and she generally is concrete when she’s decided what (if any) place it will have in her life.

She loves tummy rubs from HomieLuva, but if he starts to slow down or stop, she’s sure to grab his hand and place it back on her stomach, looking him square in the eye like “You GON’ rub this belly some mo’...” She hasn’t come to temper tantrum phase yet, but her “No” is strong and sure. You might be able to try her later with the thing she’s currently rejecting, but right at this moment? She’s letting you know that it’s not happening.

She hasn’t developed the kind of self-awareness that makes you a bit shy about sharing or being excited about what you like, or makes you worry about coming off too strong. Seeing her conduct herself in such a self-assured, self-centered (in a good way) manner is utterly refreshing, and reminds me that I need to indulge more in the things I enjoy, and need to be more firm with my “No,” regardless of what anyone else thinks. No more pussy-footing around issues - my “say what you mean, mean what you say” muscle has been re-strengthened thanks to the teachings of one Little Magician.

I marvel at the way she’s changed and continues to change me, and sit in awe at how powerful this tiny human is. You’re never too old to become a better person, and I’m just thankful that I have a pretty good teacher here to show me the way.