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.