Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bad Parenting Confessional: Hug Forcing Hippies

I was so so so upset. I saw my daughter cry yesterday like I have never seen before. She was refused a hug and she bawled. Our Girl Friday is not what you would call a bawler. But I've seen it now. I was so upset.

Yesterday we had a playdate to breakup all the Mommy & and Me (and Baby!) doldrums. It was really fun for the two girls. Then when her friend went to leave my girl said. "No, wait. You forgot a hug and a kiss." (This is just like she'd say to Daddy or Grandpa when they're leaving.) The friend looked her square in the face and said "No, hug" and they went to leave.

I froze. I just didn't know how to react. Upon reflection I was leaving it to the other mother. And her response was bye-bye. Was there a sorry in there? I don't remember. I was profoundly upset, dumbstruck. Foolishly (?) we went after them down the lane. I tried to suggest alternatives to my daughter. Blow a kiss? The ever popular, "Ciao, Baby." But it was obvious she wanted no substitute. Our little visitor was amenable to supplying something in response to her playmate's cries in the end. Nose kiss? OK. My daughter held her in her little arms as they did it. What a relief I felt. She only whimpered a little after that. I could chat her through it.

In an effort to help us and to explain the little girl's Mom said she didn't like to force her daughter. Due to, as an example, the thoroughly logical limits she has to impose on her toddler around the hugging of their baby when baby doesn't want it. You know how those can be entirely age-inappropriate rough-housing in hug clothing. I understand this.

But at first it wasn't natural to understand. I was a bit in shock to not be the parent with the kid throwing the cold shoulder. It is usually the other way around. I have forced our daughter to hug this girl a couple dozen times. I never thought forced. I hand-out lighthearted chidings and tell her I expect that she return 'the love' when her friends wanna give it. I mean we're just hippies like that, I guess.

Which brings me around to friends. I mean do little 2 1/2 year old people really have friends? I know they are pretty friendly but are we wrong to hang our thoughts on social nicieties between them like they have such obligations? Or are they what I said... playmates. Thinking it over makes me feel quite icky; sort of like social engineering. I am flummoxed.

I'd be lying not to admit that I was shaken to experience that gap in parenting knowledge that seemed so accessible to the other parent. I tend to obsess about these sorts of run-ins and with the right/wrongedness of this parenting gig. What am I: some massive parenting schmo? I read too much into things, right? I love to ask "Did I do the wrong thing?" after these sorts of things.

The short story is someone refused my child's affection and it made her cry. I am sure this won't be last time. It's just that it was the first. It seems both of us got bawlers down there somewhere.

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Blogger Mad said...

Ahhh. What a tale of woe. Miss M has no friends--at least not yet BUT I know that I would do what you would do--whether right or wrong. If someone wants love, you encourage any and all to love that person. Now I would tell an adult to shove off if they were demanding a hug from my daughter but NOT another kid. I think my heart is breaking a bit tonight too.

8:40 p.m.  
Blogger Bon said...

oh...poor little. we haven't had to negotiate this yet, as O's just thirteen months and isn't really great on the whole concept of 'hugging' but does pretty much accept affection from all comers...

i'm on board with the whole "give a hug to another kid" kindness thing...but i can see, i suppose, why some parents might not want to "force" it. but my inner hippie wants them too, yep.

note to self - cultivate hippie-like friends.

8:16 a.m.  
Blogger Andrea said...

wow Iam wow now thinking of my relationship with my daughter and I alwaysh have her say good bye propertlly but she has started wanting a hug without my pushing for it. Now I say "give everyone a hug and say byebye" I dont think I am forcing her to but I am telling her to. Now I am at a loss. hmm. But we grew up that way and I still give hugs to friends and loved ones. I personally dont see anything wrong with it. now I am all aughy and dont know what to think about this. This is going to require some thought from me. hmmm

10:03 p.m.  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Aw, this broke my heart! The good news is she'll forget about it quickly, but the bad news is you probably won't.

10:46 a.m.  
Blogger NotSoSage said...


I won't force Mme L to hug adults but I do chide her a little because I've noticed the following pattern: she thinks that if she doesn't say goodbye, the person won't leave, so she refuses to say goodbye. Then, when we're three blocks away, she routinely bursts out crying because she wanted to say goodbye. I've taken to reminding her of those moments. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Then again, she sure as hell didn't let Mad get out of our car at the airport and walk away without a hug, so maybe she's learning.

1:20 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our modus operandi is "hugging only by mutual consent". It's about learning to respect the other child's body and personal space. If the child wants guaranteed hugging, it has to be with a stuffed animal, otherwise if you want a person-to-person hug, it needs to be mutual. One of my DC's is very huggy and the other does NOT like hugging as much, so there needs to be respect between them as part of their relationship.

6:14 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do two-year-olds have 'friends'? Depends on how you define it, I think, but me, I prefer 'playmates'. It's a better descriptor of the social interactions/sophistication at that age.

As for the hugging? I may gently encourage by saying "Are you sure?", but only gently, and only once. Kids need to be taught they have the right to conrol over who has access to their bodies.

I will discuss the protocol in advance, and I might suggest, if I know the other child is a huggy one and the one with me is not, that the event end with a nice, big hug. Often pre-direction works well, and, again, it puts the control of the situation in the hands of the child.

Everyone has the right to say no.

5:23 a.m.  

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