Normally I’m not much of a hugger. It’s not that I dislike hugs. If someone hugs me, I’ll hug them back. I’m just not usually the one who will initiate a hug. I don’t know why. It’s just not really my thing. I guess I’m too stand-offish, and not really a touchy-feely type of person.
That being said, sometimes, when working with kids, I wonder if I have a sign on my back that says “hug me” because man, those kids are all over me.
“I wish you could live at the school,” said Yuna. “Then I could see you all the time!” As if seeing me for three hours every day weren’t enough.
We’re not really supposed to let the kids hug us. It is a job, after all, and we need to have some sense of professionalism. But I’ve seen the teachers, and even my bosses do it from time-to-time. And besides, some of the parents actually tell their kids to go and hug me before they leave. So I think as long as we establish boundaries, keep things professional, and make it clear to the kids that we are their leaders (not friends), then I guess a little hug now and then isn’t that big of a deal.
While I normally work with the 2nd graders, every once in a while, like during Fall Break, I work with the 1st graders. There’s one 1st grader who we’ll call “May.” Most kids hug, then let go after a moment. But not May. She’d come up to me, hug me, and not let go. I mean, really. She just wouldn’t let go.
“Okay…uh…May…we gotta go,” I would say.
She wouldn’t move.
“It’s snack time. Let’s go get snack.”
She still wouldn’t move.
“Don’t you want to go play with your friends?”
I would try to pull her off of me, but it’s like she had vice grip or something. She just wouldn’t move. Another leader would come and pry her off of me.
Kids at this age don’t know what personal space is. They’ll stand really close to you. Really, really close. So one day I was sitting down and Yuna was standing next to me. I stood up, and as I did the band of my watch hit her face because she was standing so close.
She started to cry, “Owwww…!”
“Oh! Sorry, are you okay?” Without thinking about it I hugged her, because, I guess, that’s the natural reaction towards a kid when they’re hurt, especially when you’re the one who accidentally hurt them. I hugged her, and she immediately stopped crying.
That’s when I discovered the magic power of hugs. Hug a kid when they’re crying, and 4 out of 5 times they’ll stop crying. Hugs. They make everything better.
“A child needs both to be hugged and unhugged. The hug lets her know she is valuable. The unhug lets her know that she is viable. If you’re always shoving your child away, they will cling to you for love. If you’re always holding them closer, they will cling to you for fear.”