Owen is an affectionate kid. A SUPER affectionate kid. As a baby he loved to be held and was happiest smiling right up in someone’s (anyone’s?) face. Now he often asks for hugs and snuggles and loves to bury his face in my neck or hold my hand.
That’s adorable, right? About a year ago I posted about the dark side of being so affectionate. His… drum roll please... PROBLEM with loving his friends too much. Hugging them so much, for instance, that they fall to the ground and someone gets hurt. And that someone was never Owen. To date, it’s the only behavior he’s ever been reprimanded for (aside from the biting incident).
Around that time we talked a lot about gentle hands and so-and-so doesn’t want a hug right now and great hug, buddy, now let go… . It was a fine line because I certainly didn’t want to tell him not to hug his friends, but he did need to learn, uh, boundaries.
History repeats itself, my friends! Over the weekend we got to meet my high school friend’s 10 week old baby, Zoey. They had sent us a beautiful birth announcement with close-up pictures of her hands and feet that Owen had been talking about for weeks. As soon as she walked in the door, Owen wanted to see her hands and feet, and pushed the birth announcement in her face, insisting, “See, Zoey! See! ‘Dose are your feet!”. It was precious. We had a present to give them as well, as Owen thrust it into her hands and wanted her to open it. He adored her and wanted her to sit and play with him immediately.
Then came the hugging. The over-hugging.
As soon as he got close enough to touch her tiny little feet, Owen wanted to pull her in closer and closer and wouldn’t stop until he was holding her entirely on her own.
Don’t worry, we did a lot of refereeing and tried to remind him that she is just a baby and use gentle hands and don’t squeeze her face so tight.
(Thankfully she is a very sturdy little babe and played baby doll very well!)
Despite the fact that he won’t let go, this picture melts my heart. I think he’s trying to tell me he wants a little baby of his own.
I even got
my strength training workout to try my hand at playing referee holding two kids at once. Practice!
The next day we had a playdate with a friend who has a younger brother. Similar to the Zoey loving, Owen would inch closer and closer to him throughout the day and go in for long, drawn-out hugs… to the ground. It’s like he slips into a comatose zone mid-hug wherein he can’t hear us telling him to stop. It’s like he can’t help himself. Slightly hilarious and slightly embarrassing.
We tried offering him a baby doll and letting him know that he could hug it as much as he wanted. And we’ve started counting down and saying things like, “Great hug! We’ll be all done in 3, 2, 1!”. And trying to appeal to his empathetic side with, “I don’t think so-and-so wants a hug right now. Do you want to come give ME a hug?”. None of the tactics are working particularly well, but we’re hoping he’ll hear the message in one way or another.
I can only imagine how he will be when we have a real, live baby brother or sister for him to squeeze all the time! Someday. Hopefully by that point he will have learned to control this irresistible desire to over-hug… but I’m guessing this is going to be a recurring theme for him.