Monday, February 20, 2012

The Hugging Problem

Best Friends
There is a huge national movement to ban hugging in the school house.

We don't want students touching each other, students touching teachers or teachers touching students or teachers touching teachers. I'm all for using wisdom in your daily life about who and when you touch people, but at what point do we determine NOT touching each other appropriately is just as harmful as touching each other inappropriately.

I can assure you that they
aren't trying to date each
All of this fuss is largely because of the publicized abuse perpetrated by a handful of perverted adults (who could have found any number of opportunities to act inappropriately outside of the schoolhouse). Our gut instinct is to issue a blanket ban on hugging, because we just don’t want any trouble or controversy and the easiest way to avoid either of those things is to ban the behavior across the board.

I teach high school grades 7th-12th. Every day I am surrounded by kids ages 11-to-18 years old. My biological kids are also in the building in the same hallway where I teach. So, on any given day I receive anywhere from five to fifty-five hugs.

Mrs. Kim, please, please keep
hugging my kids. I mean it.
Most of these are those little side winding hugs. (You know, like you give your Aunt Ruth.) Some of them are the pat-pat-pat hugs where your bodies are leaned into one another, but only your arms are touching. They are mostly polite, hugs of friendship, but some of them are pitiful, please love me hugs. 

With the current climate of teachers abusing students, we have to be especially careful in our physical contact with students. If I’m being totally honest, this makes me incredibly sad.

Some of these kids hug because it is their love language. My son would fall into this category. Touching, hugging, and snuggling are the primary ways he shows affection and receives affirmation. He is in the fourth grade and still comes into my classroom multiple times every day just to be reassured that I’m still there and that he’s still number one. He hugs me in front of everyone, shamelessly.
I'm sure Doc was as disturbed by the contact as the
student was.
When some of the older kids started ragging him about hugging his Mooooooommmmmmyyyy, he raised one eyebrow, made direct eye contact and shot back, “Well, I can’t help it if your mother doesn’t love you.” Then he hugged me again while giving the evil eye to that teenager. The hug was to lay claim to me, his mother, in front of everyone just in case they weren’t clear that he is mine and I am his.

Some of these kids hug me, because it’s the only contact they have from a Mom. Everyone needs a Mom Person. (They need a Dad Person too. Usually this role is filled by a coach if the father is unavailable in the home, but that’s someone else’s blog.)

Again, I can assure you that they aren't trying
to date one another.
Maybe their moms are fantastic, and they are just in need of an extra measure of comfort. Or maybe their mothers haven’t behaved motherly. Or the mom has abandoned them to the grandparents. Or maybe the mom died. Or the mom works 65 hours a week. Or the mom is on drugs. Or the mom is just unavailable.
Awards night with two of my favorite kids.
I’m an overweight, middle-aged Mom Person for sure. I am a safe harbor. At any given time I am surrounded by my own babies who need money or hugs or faces wipe. I fit the profile—safe, good-natured disciplinarian, who is passing out the candy and reprimands in equal measure—I’m like a mom prototype. I am almost carrying a physical sign that says, “Hug me; I’m like your mom.” 

She wanted a photo with me (which explains why I look like a corpse in this photo). Such a precious student!

Some of these kids aren’t touched by anyone outside of platonic hugs from friends at school or back/butt slapping in sports. Think about it. If your mother and father aren’t snuggling/hugging you, who is? It’s a horribly lonely thought, but if your mother isn’t there to snuggle you, who kisses it better? Who hugs you just because? Who pets you on the head and pulls you close for a second just for the reassurance? No one.

 Even if your parents are perfect and hug you all of the time, can anyone have too many platonic hugs? Hello?   
We are bonded by human contact.

And this is the kicker—if you aren’t being hugged regularly by someone who doesn’t want anything from you, the only touch you end up with from other humans is sexual in nature. If the only touch you have from other people is when you are "making out" what kind of warped view do you develop about touching people in general? There has to be some sort of compromise between platonic hugging and giving detentions for hugs in the hallway.

One of my graduates last year after the big play production.
He periodically pops in to say hello.

I'm not sure that the only hugs we receive should be associated with dating/the opposite sex as a means to an end. Perhaps we need people available to hug just because human beings need to be touched in order to thrive. We need the reassurance. We need the affirmation. We need the contact. We need to be reminded that someone knows we are here and that we aren’t repulsive. Sometimes you just need a hug simply because you do.

One of my precious graduates! I can't wait to hug her again! :-)
I had a student at the beginning of this school year. He was new in the high school and hadn't turned in an assignment on time, and it hadn't been completed correctly. When he came to see me about making arrangements to fix the problem, he burst into tears, horrified that he'd done so poorly. He was embarrassed and afraid and it just fell out of him in a flood. 

I can assure you that without a single moment of hesitation I grabbed him by both shoulders and immediately gave him a soul-crushing mama bear hug as fast as humanly possible. Then I turned his face up to mine and told him that I was proud of him for coming to see me and that only brave, honorable people face their situations head on even when they are afraid of the consequences.
Precious kids at field day. Even
the youngest of us understand the
power of the hug.

I took both of my hands and mom-wiped his face and told him that he could come to my classroom any time he needed me and that I was expecting that missing assignment to be turned in the next day, done correctly. I then hugged him again and sent him to the bathroom to clean up and pull himself together before his classmates saw him. I'd do it again right now without changing a single moment. I pray to God that when that moment comes for my son, the teacher bear hugs him too.

Sometimes I need a hug just because I do. Hopefully, you’ll know when my moment comes and will act accordingly.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

This is me, hugging you....(((((Charlotte)))))))!!!!!!!!!!!