I fight with my 17-year-old. “Hellcats, both of you,” her father says in exasperation. We fight about everything, like two feral cats in a paper bag, in her father’s colourful terminology.
Yet I hold her close always. I mean physically close. Especially when words fail me. Our physical closeness nullifies our meaningless fights: immediately after a shouting match, she would huff at me and tell me I am annoying, but with that slant of a smile in her eyes, building up to a hug that makes everything better between us once again. I will worry the night she goes to sleep without hugging or touching me, or if I could not kiss her cheek, her hair, and feel her melt into me.
I notice this is an oddity, even in Western cultures, to be always touching and hugging one’s teenage child. Those who spout attachment parenting in early years are surprisingly non-tactile to their teens. My psychologist friend tells me that there is this belief that the teenage years is about “individuating” a child, that is to say, force them to become self-sufficient.
‘Ah,” I said. “Be tough to a child in order to raise a tough adult who will be successful in a tough world.” I understood. I have seen, first hand, the destructive effect of the mindset that values self-sufficiency and independence above all. I knew one woman who sneered at me, “You still run home to your parents, at your age?” She left her parents as soon as she could, never looked back and I suspect, she would not allow her son the luxury of this “weakness” of coming home to the family, of asking for softness. The son, a qualified pilot, is handsome, healthy and outwardly successful, but he is beset with something inside that made him break off a two year engagement because of fear of commitment rather than flaws in the relationship, have outbreaks on his youthful skin, and being unable to work in a career that he had trained so many years for.
From this example and others, I am convinced that emotional distance and lack of physical bond between grown-up children and parents is not healthy. Our adolescents and young adults still need to hear, feel, and know that we love them and enjoy being with them. Heck, I am almost fifty, and I blossom each time I hear those words! Thus, it feels good for me to be home in my first family’s home. I love the fact that sometimes, it seems as if my brothers and I have not yet left home. The closeness remains, despite the miles and the passing time.
Hold your children close, and I mean physically, because sometimes, this matters more than words. But how? I hear many ask. Teens are especially prickly to close proximity, especially if they have not been brought up within a touchy-feely framework.
Six ways to cuddle your teen:
- Cook unhurriedly together with your teen/grown up child. With cooking, you stand close, work in concerted harmony, learn to anticipate each other’s moves and yes, touch.
- Rough and tumble. My children’s father still wrestles with his grown-up children – I have to remind the children not to be too rough with their old father! He is not 30-years-old anymore!
- Do things for each other, such as massage, manicure, reiki.
- Cuddle up together on a sofa watching a film. Slowly move closer.
- End each night with a goodnight kiss. I miss my mother’s “No star” (goodnight in Welsh), the way she touches me gently as she kisses me.
- Make time for each other. All of the above has to happen naturally.