The Hugger

The sound of a child’s laughter echoed through the mall the other day. I heard it and so did toddler.

He took off running in search of it and soon saw a youngster — maybe 3 years old — walking and laughing with his family. Then my son did something I didn’t expect. He walked up to the boy, smiled, wrapped his arms around him and squeezed him tight.

That’s right. My kid is a hugger. He hugs everyone. And he rarely takes no for an answer.

At a recent Mommy and Me class, he tried to lay a hug on a 3-year-old girl. She wanted no part of it. (Already the kid is getting rejected by the opposite sex.) My wife reminded him that if he wants to hug or touch someone, he needs to ask them first. My relentless son walked around to each mommy in the class — about 15 women — and asked if he could hug them. The “aahs” rang out among the ladies in the classroom as they welcomed him into their arms and the boy met his hug quota. Sly devil, if you ask me.

He was like Richard Dawson kissing each female contestant on “The Family Feud.” But it doesn’t stop there. When he got to his teacher, he lingered, held on to her and told her, “I love you.” She nearly cried.

We never taught him to be demonstrative. We simply hug him often and tell him how much he’s loved. It’s sunk in. He’ll walk up to neighbors and hug them. He’ll melt into the arms of strangers. He’ll gently envelop his little brother and say, “I love you.”

What I love about his huggable personality is how he pushes the boundaries of behavior. Normal people don’t just randomly run up to a stranger and hug them. Unless you’re two years old.

He also pushes the comfort zone of his parents. My wife and I are laid back people who don’t draw attention to ourselves. A 2-year-old ball of energy and glee has changed that. He’s made us happier and brought us closer — literally — to people we never knew.

You see, hugs may be his specialty but conversation is a close second. Whenever we take a walk, everyone we pass is greeted with a cheerful “Hi. How are you today?” You can’t not respond to him. It’s like he’s running for office. If he did, he’d have the vote of every dog walker, runner, bicyclist and lawn care worker in our community. He once invited the mailman into the house to “play trains.” Invitation denied.

At first, we weren’t sure how to respond to his outgoing ways. Some people don’t want their personal space violated so we would apologize. But then, we realized it was humorous, sweet and infectious. He’s a happy little boy who makes others around him smile and feel good. What could be better?

We know that someday we’ll have to have a chat about stranger danger, trust and keeping our hands to ourselves. But those days lie in the future.

I always knew our children would wind up teaching us nearly as much as we teach them. These days our toddler is teaching us the value of sharing a hug and a smile with a total stranger. It’s a pretty valuable and life-affirming lesson. He’s allowed my wife and I to be more friendly, open people. What a gift!

I’m curious if you’ve had a similar experience with a demonstrative child who knows no fear of others. Please share your thoughts with me.


The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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  1. Our six-year-old son is very compassionate and affectionate. Even as a first grader, he still wonders why his peers aren’t huggers.
    Of course, at this point, we’ve had the talk about personal space and stranger danger, but he knows nothing less than empathy and kindheartedness.
    He’s become aware that his friends may not understand his affectionate ways and recently ducked out a kiss from me when I was dropping him off at school… no worries though, he met me with a huge hug when I picked him up that afternoon.

  2. happiestdaddy says:

    If our kids hung out together, they might spend the entire time hugging! It’s so refreshing to see little ones who feel loved and want to share that love with others.

  3. My story here is that our first boy was pretty independent. Was content to just chill on the floor with a toy, and while he would hug you back, he rarely initiated. The youngest? Complete opposite. If he sees you hit the couch his eyes light up because he knows it’s snuggle time and he makes a b-line for your arms. At the supermarket, mall, etc… same as you describe above. Saying “hi” to everyone and random people making it a point to stop in their tracks to say “hi” to him.

    As we often do as parents, I exaggerate and say that one day he will rule the world… with his older brother running operations from behind the scenes.

    • happiestdaddy says:

      Great plan, Brad! A politician and a string puller. It is amazing how different our children are even though they are born into the same household with the same parents, same values, etc.

  4. James Hudyma says:

    I love how you brought this heartwarming tale together with a lesson about how we can learn so much from the uninhibited nature of your toddler. Sounds like a very sweet little guy.

    Neither of my kids are huggers but both are very outgoing. Then again, we’ve done a lot of “stranger danger” training… maybe too much?

    • happiestdaddy says:

      Thanks James. He is a sweet kid with an engaging personality who genuinely loves people. Of course, he’s too young to know any better! I doubt if you can do too much stranger danger training. It’s right around the corner for us.

  5. My 3yo son has recently removed the shell that he has hidden in for the last 3 years and turned into a hugger. He loves hugging people and he loves saying hi to them. As we go down the aisles in the grocery store he is saying hi to everyone we walk past and has recently started reaching out to touch them, which doesn’t go over super well, and we’ve been trying to curb this behaviour.

    I do love watching him start to explore the world a little more and interact with people outside of what used to be his comfort zone. Toddlers are fun. 🙂

    • happiestdaddy says:

      Thanks for commenting, It is interesting to navigate their behavior between what they enjoy and what is socially acceptable. I find that most people are receptive and even enjoy have their day intruded upon by a happy, smiling, outgoing child. Indeed, they are fun.

  6. nancy andrews says:

    You were like that too! I am missing seeing Jackson and Harrison already. love to you and Meredith – mom

  7. Liked how you mentioned you and your wife are laid-back folks who don’t draw attention to yourselves, yet you’re blessed with a hugger who is your exact opposite!

    I’m a firm believer that every child born into a family brings the gift of rebirth, especially to a father (since we’re all so stuck up on our ways sometimes). Perhaps your child’s personality is a gift that your family needs–the gift and ability to reach out to others and step out of your comfort zone.

    Enjoy his hugging yeas, because in today’s day and age by the time they’re 5-7 they’re off in the land of friends, iPads, Ninentdo’s, and whatever incarnation of the Power Rangers are playing now.

This is what I think...