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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Are (((hugs))) important?

So how's it going? my friend asked me.

My friend is considering older child adoption. They asked how Ru and the family was doing, and I replied honestly that 1+ year since Ru came home to us, we are STILL figuring this thing out. Still finding our "normal." Still settling in. Still wingin' it. Still making it up as we go along. Still doubting. Still coming across surprises. Still simultaneously looking back and being amazed at how far we've come but realizing there's still a ways to go. And I think the person I was talking to was surprised. A year in? And you're still not there? No. We're not. But really, isn't the journey the destination after all?

It's all good, but honestly it's still all a work in progress.

We had a break through of sorts this week. And by we I think I primarily mean just me. It has been a biggie for me, as a mama. Much of this tough and longer-than-expected transition has been about me as a mother and what that means. Even more than it is about Ru and him being able to integrate into our family. And specifically in this instance the surprise and break through were about hugs.

Ru has always given hugs. He knows it's part of American family life. someone taught him that before we met him. He hugged us immediately as he met us that very first time in China! He's never shied away from them. But still, when you hug him, it's like hugging a board. It's stiff and unnatural. Bed time. When I pick them up from school. First thing in the morning. It's all the same. He comes at you head down first, like a ram rod into your chest. I've tried to "teach" him and role model how to "embrace" and not hurt the recipient as you're doing it. But still one, (Me really. See it's about me.) needs to be kinda be on guard yet embrace (both literally and figuratively) Ru's hugs at the same time. Because hugs are good, right? Touch is good, right? We're family, so this is what we do, right? We hug each other! A year later, these hugs had me pondering. The mere fact that I couldn't seem to embrace Ru's hugs as readily as I do hugs from my other children was a source of guilt.
Our first hug. I think we have know each other all of 2 seconds in this photo. Be still my heart. My son.
Someone taught him that giving a hug was a proper American family greeting. 

I was tucking him into bed a few nights ago, and I'm not sure why, but I was thinking about it. Maybe because I'd just gotten the head in the chest moments earlier. I asked him about hugs and his past. I asked him if he got hugs in China? Did people in China get and give hugs? Knowing full well that his answer would be colored by his personal experiences. And that's actually what I wanted. He explained that no, he didn't get hugs in China. Hugs were for babies. I asked him if during the short stint at his foster family is he got hugs. No. He went on to explain that hugs and kisses weren't part of his China life. And although I wasn't surprised by his answer, my heart sank for him.

A child who didn't get hugs...

Now, I'm not naive. None of this may even be true. Or maybe it is. It doesn't really matter. It's what's in Ru's heart. And we continued to discuss. We're family now, and hugs are a part of that. It's how we say I love you. And it how we say we're forever. And even if we get mad or sad, we're not going anywhere ever. Hugs say that kinda of stuff. And thinking I knew what his answer would be, because seriously who doesn't like hugs, especially children, especially in the constructs of family! I asked him if liked hugs.
He didn't. He didn't like hugs at all.

A child who didn't even like hugs because he never got them...

Quick, mama, think on your feet. Now what? 

Do you like back rubs? Yes, he replied. He liked back rubs and instantly rolled over on the bed, his face away from mine, head in the pillow, assuming the position to receive the rubbing. And I did. And it was good. I noted that his body quickly relaxed and "gave in" like it never did with hugs. He melted into the bed as I rubbed his precious, wonderfully-made, little, scared, bronzed back. And I really felt like a mama in that moment. His mama.

Ru and I talked some more as I rubbed his back, and he explained that back rubs weren't a part of his life in China either. But he still likes them. And we decided right then and there that back rubs were gong to be our hugs. My back rub to him was my way of saying I love you. And that we're forever.  And we're not going anywhere ever.

This is all a little thing. And it's huge all at the same time. And we're still making it. And still it's not easy. But I wouldn't change any of it!

1 comment:

  1. It's so heartbreaking to think that he didn't get hugs:( But I'm thinking the back rubs are a step towards those hugs. Baby steps!


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