Surrounded by piles of toys, I stand in a sleep-deprived coma when it happens. I feel his sweet, soft hands wrap ever so gently around my clothing bare legs with the slightest squeeze. Suddenly my heart jumps, over flowing with unexpected emotion, but then the fear seeps in.
Should I hug him back? Just stand here? Shaking my head, I try to convince myself to just enjoy this rare moment right here, right now. It’s so hard to live in the moment. This amazing connection is really happening, and I want to capitalize on it. Deciding to risk it all, I move in for a closer embrace.
With much trepidation, I ever so slowly and carefully creep my hands closer to his little body, tiptoeing through this emotional land mine. Is the risk worth it? I ask myself again, along with a gamut of other questions. I continue to relish the unprompted hug and decide: the risk IS indeed worth the possible gains: a closer connection I’m constantly craving from my 3 ½ year old son.
I hesitantly move in. He tolerates the touch of my hand on his arm. My heart stops for a moment. My breath ceases, as to not disturb this momentous event unfolding before me. I begin to cautiously squeeze him…then it happens, he swiftly pushes my hopeful arms to the side and lessens his already weak grip on my body.
It ends as quickly as it began. I should have just enjoyed it…him…the sweet joy this hug delivered, but I regretfully gambled and lost. With nothing more to lose, I tempt fate again and asks him if he wants to sit on the couch with me. He says: “Mommy couch.”
Elation once again overcomes my entire being. Scooping his sturdy body up, I race to the couch before his mind changes. He sits on my lap for several minutes providing a dream-like elation for this heavy-laden heart of mine. This time I don’t dare touch him; my arms rigidly float above him in an awkward fashion. This is the moment! Beaming with relieved excitement, I just enjoy the here, the now, this unexpected surprise, this amazing gift I so desperately need.
My incredible boy has Autism and mostly wants to connect with me on his terms, which often means that he commands me to sit on the couch while he shoves cars behind my back over and over again or lays face down on my legs as I firmly rub his back or rock him, never allowing a soft touch.
I have felt a strain in intimacy from him since infancy, never fully understanding its origin. My sweet boy did not hug me until he was 3 years old. He only allowed a select few to hug him and stiffened his body with his arms glued to his side at each attempted embrace, if we were lucky. Often our hugs were met with shoves to the face, flailing arms, kicks, and screams…sometimes head-butts.
Through massive amounts of therapy, over 30 hours a week, we taught him how to hug. You see, this little love, doesn’t pick up on these amazing feats that we take for granted from our kiddos. He has to learn how to connect, how to show love the way the world accepts it, the way mothers dream it should be.
My heart skips a beat every time he hugs me or wants to sit with me, because this was not a gift automatically given to us. We all earned it together. When your sweet pea gives you giant hugs and looks lovingly into your eyes, please enjoy the moment. It’s not guaranteed for every parent.