Since everyone who knows me well knows I am not a huggy, touchy-feely person, it may surprise you to learn that cuddling is a big part of our family life. Or maybe not. My parents were (and still are, with each other) big cuddlers, but I got squirmy and wouldn’t put up with it at quite an early age. Yet I do enjoy cuddling with my own husband and kids, even though I prefer an arms’ length distance from most other people, even those I love.
Our kids are both big fans of bedtime cuddles, and I’m rather flattered that, even though Jason is clearly the Fun Parent, I am usually the first-choice parent for “Come in and lie down with me” once the lights go out.
It’s a good time to have a quiet talk, and sometimes they use those moments to confide about how things went at school or other things they might not tell me in the harsh light of day with a sibling listening in.
Christopher is particularly insistent on getting his cuddle time alone with me at the end of the day, and always begs me to stay longer after I’ve said it’s time for me to go and him to get to sleep. This is particularly unusual, and nice, because during the rest of the day he’s definitely moved into that cool pre-teen thing where it’s embarassing if Mom gives him a hug or a kiss or shows any sign of overt affection. Yet at bedtime, he begs me: “Don’t go yet!! Just a few more minutes!!!”
What is strange to me is that much as I cherish this, I have this inner resistance to overcome too. I want to spend time with my children, but I also want those few short hours when they’re in bed and I’m still up — a couple of hours when I get to be an adult, with marginally fewer responsibilities than I have all day. Time when I can read, or write, or watch grown-up TV.
So I cut short cuddling time, even though nothing I could ever consider doing in those few minutes would have anything close to the value of a few extra minutes with my fast-growing children.
The other night both kids were a little needy — after I’d read them a piece from their devotional book for worship, they both wanted to talk about things that had gone wrong at school with their friends. They are both launched into those rocky “tween” years when relationships with their friends can be so fraught and so potentially painful. Although they both have far better friends than I had at that age, and are navigating those seas much better than I did, they do have bad days when they feel left out or rejected.
I want them to learn that home is the safe place, the one place they can always come and be loved and understood when the schoolyard is harsh and cold. So that night I told them there would be some extra cuddle-time, and I went and spent about twenty minutes with each of them, listening and giving Wise Advice, and cuddling.
It was great. And I thought: Why don’t I do this more often? Why do I resist spending the most precious time I’ll ever get to spend?