Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Never Say No To Long Hugs or Brushing Teeth

My husband has been encouraging me lately to write something about work. 
No matter how hard I try, my musings always start out about work but always end with small humans, which as you can assume is very much like my everyday life.  This post is no exception.  

Contrary to what it looks like here, I do work.  I work full time in fact as a hospitalist at a teaching hospital and I love my job.  I find it hard to sort out what exactly I can write about without talking about interactions with patients or trainees which is illegal.  I recently worked 21 days in row and that was hard...really hard on me but even more so on my family.  I swore not to do that again and from that self-made promise comes this post.

It sucks to come home exhausted but try and turn it on for your kids who are dancing and shouting with delight when you walk in the door.  I struggle to be thrilled and grateful for that greeting, but honestly sometimes I cannot muster the strength.
I get tired too.
I get tired of being touched.
What a weird thing to be tired of right? 
Can I please be tired of something more normal?  Something that does not make me feel like the coldest most heartless mom ever? 
Group Hug
I was tired of nursing a baby or pumping every 2-6 hours around the clock for 14 months and was guiltily relieved to give it up and take back ownership of my chest (or as SH3 points to them and says "Tummy?" and then points to her belly button.  I continue to work on not being insulted).  I get tired of listening to lungs and hearts with a stethoscope so short that I can smell what the patient ate for lunch yesterday, tired of picking up bandages to see what horrors lie beneath, tired of hugging someone and telling them they have cancer, tired of introducing myself and shaking hands, tired of vulnerability, fear, despair, hope, pain, and healing, tired of touching.  I often wonder if I leave a little bit of what I was saving for my kids and husband behind with every patient, nurse, colleague that I see and at the end of the day I am all used up.  

You see I am not a "hugger", my love languages are "Quality Time" and "Receiving Gifts" (The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman).  Touching is something I have to do with conscious effort. My son and husband's love language is "Physical Touch".  They are cuddlers and sit-close-to-me-breath-the-same-air type people.  So what is my deal?  I am not grossed out by much of anything, so I can safely say that is not it.  As a kid, I was loved and cuddled a lot, another dead end.  I wonder what is it about me that keeps me from rejoicing that these snuggly warm bodies want to be close.  

I recently did a book study at my church of 1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp and on the first meeting I admitted to a table of women that I find it very easy to rationalize the uncomfortable or unfitting parts of who I am with seemingly plausible excuses about why I can't or don't have to do something.   
I have been touched all day long; Mommy just needs a minute to herself
I don’t have the energy to play/cuddle with you; I am so emotionally and physically exhausted from all the human suffering I saw today. (OK so maybe I wouldn’t use those exact words with a 3 year old.)
I am talking to Daddy, can I have a second? 
I have icky work clothes on; let me go change before you show me what disaster you have created.
Why are you all wet?!  Where are the couch cushions?!
I want to change how I treat the love they all so freely give.  
Loving is not a chore, it is a pleasure.  Touching is not a hardship, it is a gift.  Cuddling is not a nuisance, it is life giving. 

Stay with me here.  We recently made a rule in my house that we are not allowed to say "no" to anyone wanting to brush their teeth.  (Yes we had to make it a rule because brushing the teeth of 3 kids under 6 is NEVER convenient, NEVER quick, NEVER easy, and ALWAYS a mess, but it needs to be done and the kids love it.)  I was focused on the inconvenience of it for me and not thinking of them and how I should want to foster a love of good oral hygiene.  At this point it is all good genetics and lazy dumb luck that no small human has a cavity.  (That and I feel bad about my kids hearing me lie to the dentist about flossing their teeth. "Sometimes we only floss three times per week"  AKA: never).
Tragedy averted

No more excuses.  It is not about me at all.  It is about what those around me need.  They are not asking to smear blue toothpaste on the counter and spray spit on the mirror, they are hoping I will just reach out to them. 
Yes.  Just Yes
Image credit: Rants from Mommyland
I am grateful for arms to hold them, breath to squeeze out, hair to rumple, an ear to whisper love notes into, and a heart that always has enough room for one more touch.  I am grateful for the chance to emulate that stupid sticky blue toothpaste that glues itself on to every surface it encounters.  Today I will be more like that toothpaste I hate.  I will glom on to them and appreciate the joy it brings to my small humans.  

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. 
--Marcel Proust

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