When I was a little girl, I loved the warmth of touch of my parents. The holding of hands with my father while walking, the gentle tap on my hand when my mom wanted me to hurry up for anything. But that was it, nothing more. I remember, my best friend mentioning often how her mother used to hug her every time she cried, after a disciplining lesson and sometimes for no reason at all.
I somehow found that very fascinating but never knew how to ask my mother to hug me. In my heart, I always yearned for the supportive, loving touch, beyond words, to let me feel I was acknowledged. I pined to wrap my hands around my angry mother or when she was in pain to tell her I was there for her, but she would never let me.
We are all so different in our notions about touch. I feel the earlier generations were far more strict about avoiding any physical contact beyond the ‘baby’ years.Some have been touched inappropriately and are driven by their experiences to avoid touch. Some equate touch to spoiling. But in my heart, I valued it as a medium of passing on warmth, compassion and support.
I have valued touch so much, that I never shy away from holding hands while walking. I did it for years with my father when we used to go for morning walks together. Then I happily walked holding hands with my best friend even in college years (we were never bothered by the fact that we were grown ups) and I even walked holding hands with my ex-husband all through the years of our married life.
I still vividly remember the first time I was hugged after the age of four. I was seventeen years old, had recently been selected for admission at a premier institute and two of my close, school friends had come over to meet me.
After the usual chit-chat, when the effervescence of the excitement settled, my friend Rashmi told me how her family was getting her married off and that she was very excited about it. I was dumbfounded. I had no clue how to react. To me it was not a good news from any angle. Rashmi was all of seventeen years, had freshly passed her 12th standard board exams and had a bright future ahead of her but her parents were getting her married. Knowing me, she held my hands and said “don’t say anything wise, I know what you’re thinking. I want my parents to be happy and I want to do this for them.”
I vividly remember a lump forming in my throat, tears beginning to sting my eyes but feeling too helpless without the comfort of words. That was when Rashmi hugged me. Tight. We shed silent tears for a long time. And finally parted with a smile wishing each other well. That moment, that feeling, that touch, that hug has stayed with me in its freshest form even a decade later. The comfort, the bonding I had felt then has become my guiding light.
I have chosen to pass it on to my child. I have always made it a point to hug Pari whenever I want her to feel that I am there for her without burdening the feeling with my words. It often saves me from the sin of uttering “I told you so”.
The hugs, snuggles, pats, ruffling of hair, gently touching of her arm to usher her to hurry with the task at hand, I do them all. They often work but are sometimes lost in translation. There are also times when Pari asks me, why did I hug her suddenly. At those times I try to mumble a sensible explanation but have never been able to translate my feelings in appropriate words.
There are times when I encourage Pari simply by ruffling her hair. I snuggle with her in bed with a book, leaning into, snuggling, touching and sometimes arm-wrapping. On many occasions I go off to sleep before her while reading to her. Such is the peace brief episodes of touch fill my heart with.
When disciplining gets tough, emotions and rage begins to pump fast in my veins, I simply scoop my brat up and hug her close. She often resists initially, then just lets us be. I have found it to work wonderfully in times when I have had no clue how to take it further with her.
I am particularly conscious of keeping the touching gentle. Somehow I have never been able to come to enjoy tickling. I never try it with Pari. It makes me feel that when you get into the tickling groove, one can lose the essence of touching only where it is appropriate. And if that lesson is included in the moment, the precious message that I wish to convey with touch seems to get lost in distraction. Besides the laughter that tickling induces is often involuntary. It fails to relax me or to make me lose the pent-up heat in me.
I do not know if Pari will allow me to hold her hands while walking once she grows up, but for now I never let go of any opportunity to do so. I am not sure if Pari will go on to hug to melt away hurt and pain but I shall always gift them to her in plenty. In feeding her hunger for understanding I am quenching my thirst for human touch. In holding her, I am being held. In raising her, I am reliving my growing up years.
Habits are formed with persistence. Touch, even as gentle as a handshake can often spark friendships of a lifetime. It can pass on the message of connection and kindness expressed in the universal language of touch. That’s why believe we need to stay in touch with touch.
I believe in the power of touch in teaching compassion, kindness and positive discipline. Do you?
What has been your experience with touch?
* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge 2016. My theme is Parenting.
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