Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tree Huggin' Momma

by Carolyn B. Ruch

“Mom, I’m leaving now.” He hesitated at the door, his backpack flung over his shoulder.
Wow, he’s waiting for me. He actually wants a hug.
It had been a wake up call, a two-by-four moment. Bam! I felt the jolt of the invisible board hit me right upside my head. Listening to the radio I heard the voice of wisdom. “Continue to hug your teenagers even if they act like they don’t want to be bothered or could care less.” That caught my attention. I began to ponder.
When did I stop hugging him, Lord? I don’t remember the last time I reached out and touched him?
Physical affection doesn’t come naturally to my mother, to her mother or to me. I come from a long line of stoics. Proud of our abilities to suck up the tears, pick our selves up by our bootstraps, we keep moving on no matter what comes our way. But I couldn’t ignore the voice of wisdom wafting through the airways loud and clear. “Your teenagers need hugs and physical affection from their parents at this time in their lives--now more than ever.”
So where do I begin, Lord? How do I begin? He’ll think I’m nuts if I just start hugging him. And to be honest, I’m frightened he’ll reject me. I had grown weary of his apathetic attitude and struggled constantly not to take his eye-rolling personally. But all of the intellectual reasoning in the world could not take the sting out of his constant displays of rejection. I don’t think I’m up for the task, Lord. Oh, help!
But I made a decision. I took the challenge.
It was just another morning to my son, but to me it was the day I was altering the course of my family’s history.
“Luke, I’d like to hug you each morning before you leave for school. I know that you may not like it, and it may feel awkward, but I really want you to know just how much I love you.”
He looked at me. His eyes circled in their sockets. His shoulders shrugged, and apathy oozed from his pores.
Ugh! This isn’t going to be easy, Lord.
I reached toward him. He stood still. As I embraced him, his body stiffened. My goodness, a tree trunk would feel more inviting. This is going to be harder than I imagined.
Discouraged but determined, I made a commitment to myself to continue the hug “tree-tment” each and every morning.
Day after day began with one goal in mind: hug that teenager before he gets out the door. I had to stop him many times from whizzing right by me, reeling him back so I could establish my tree-hugging routine.
But slowly I began to notice a subtle response. Was that a squeeze back I just detected? Did I really feel a touch?
Then one morning, I was distracted from my goal. While emptying the dishwasher I heard a “ha-hmm.” I looked up. There he stood, in a slump, slouched against the door jam with his backpack hanging off his shoulder. “Does he have a cold?” I wondered. But wait. I was wrong. He was waiting for me. He was waiting for a hug! And his momma was willing to oblige.
Oh, I was elated! My diligence had paid off. The voice of wisdom was right. I sauntered around the kitchen counter trying to pace myself, resisting the temptation to tackle him and thus overwhelm him with my boundless joy. I put my arms around him and received one of the most precious hugs of my life.
I stood peering out the window. My eyes followed him as he walked to his car and slid into the driver’s seat. As he drove away, I could not contain my excitement any longer. With the voice of a sports announcer I bellowed as I pulled my fist down through the air, “Yes! She hugs, she scores!
What a way to start the day. Thank you, Lord.
Months passed. The hugs continued and Christmas brought a new puppy to our family, a bundle of black fur and energy that needed to be taken to the backyard to go potty each morning. That somehow became my job, just another to add to my list of motherly duties.
I stood outside one particular morning in January while our puppy busied himself at my feet. I was distracted once again. Suddenly, my son bounded down our deck stairs heading toward his car. Running late again. I thought. I heard his car door slam and continued on with my mission, when I heard his car door open. Moments later I looked up to see him standing at the entrance to our backyard, a smile on his face. Waiting once again. Waiting for me. I smiled back as I scooped up the little fur ball and headed directly toward my son with a big hug just waiting to be unleashed.
He got out of his car, Lord. He stopped what he was doing--all for a hug. Resolute, I vowed to never again question the value of a hug to my teenage son. The voice of wisdom was right, and I was glad I had listened.

Visit Carolyn at her blog: tamarsredemption.blogspot.com