When All Else Fails…

When all else fails, we can get close to our families by getting physically close to them. Most of my posts so far have talked about ways in which we can bond or achieve emotional closeness with our loved ones, and today it occurred to me that I have thus far neglected the literal definition of being close to someone: physical closeness.

We need a physical bond with our spouses, and I’m not just talking about in the bedroom (although that is important too!). Providing our spouses, whether male or female, with physical affection can do wonders to lift the mood in our homes. The simple gesture of holding hands or putting an arm around each other while watching a movie at the end of the day really makes us feel welcomed, comforted, and loved. It opens us up to each other on a level that can’t be achieved with words alone. Imagine coming home to a husband who greets you with a cheerful, “Welcome home, dear!” from across the room. While this greeting feels kind and welcoming, there is something so tender and warm about meeting each other face to face and giving each other a hug or a kiss, with or without words.

Our children need physical closeness with us even more so than our spouses need it. Being physically close to their parents is how infants learn to trust. And it’s usually easiest for us to do at this age. We love to feel their soft newborn skin, to hold them close and rock them to sleep. Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, we hold them against us and look into their eyes, cherishing the brief moments while they are so small. As they get a little bigger, they still want to be carried, to sit in our laps, to snuggle up and be read to, to be hugged and have their boo-boos kissed. But what about when they get even older? They may no longer want to be hugged or kissed goodbye in front of their friends, but if they may still enjoy curling up next to us on the couch for a movie night or to have hugs when they get sad or scared. And the chances are that if we establish a healthy, physical bond with them when they are young, they will be more open to it (with us and with others) as they grow into adulthood. One of my favorite memories as a child involves sitting close to my mother every Sunday during church, holding her hand and quietly playing with the ring on her finger as the pastor gave his sermons. She gave me that same ring a few years ago, and I wear it every day, reminding me to be open to my own children for moments like that.

Not only is all of this good for our families, but it is good for ourselves too. I believe that by opening ourselves to become physically close in these ways, it expands our own hearts. For fathers, mothers, grandparents, and husbands or wives, connecting with those that we love through a hug or a cuddle, we are letting down our own walls and bursting our personal-space bubbles. So while we may be comforting our families, these kind and gentle moments allow them to comfort us as well, in ways that words alone just can’t achieve.

Go ahead and hug someone you love today.

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