The affection police are coming to hug you away

Some things from your youth flow into becoming part of the family culture you build with your children. From earliest childhood I was taught to stay out of the way. Doctors have their “first do no harm” principle and farm kids have their “first get out of the way” maxim. You don’t have to be doing the most important chore so long as you aren’t hindering the person who is. My boys aren’t farm kids, but I try to stress this awareness. I can’t teach staying out of the way as well as an 800 pound bull can, but I try.

Other parts of your upbringing you reconsider with your own children. I grew up in a non-huggy, non-kissy environment. My wife, who has far fewer Germans in her lineage, is all hugs all the time. While I am still not a confident hugger of adult people, I’ve adopted her system with our children.

I can’t imagine not hugging and kissing our children every day; it’s become so routine now for me to do it. Also, our children will not suffer themselves to be robbed of their rightful hugs and kisses. Mommy’s warm blood seems to have conquered my aloof genetics within them.

They are the affection police.

At bedtime I have to give three hugs and three kisses to make the world right for sleeping. Big Man’s kiss is actually a carefully choreographed series of kisses. He takes my head firmly between his hands and stamps my lips upon his face as he turns his head side to side. If I pull away before the process is complete, we have to start over. The same goes for Mommy.

This old picture of them kissing each other is more appealing than a new picture of them kissing their crusty old dad.

At 3 a.m. one morning I awoke to a boy standing beside my bed. I expected to hear the sad tale of a bad dream. Instead I heard mournful reality. “You didn’t hug me when I went to bed,” Buster lamented. That is, I didn’t hug him to his satisfaction. The midnight raid was just so I understand who is privileged to interpret the law.

Going to work is another ripe occasion for hugs and kisses. There is a program for this as well. Big Brother gets his at the table where does his reading. The little boys go to the door. Big Man is very particular about where he gets his hug and kiss. He will position me at the threshold if I am lax in my staging.

Mommy is last to get her kiss. Once, when I gave her only a quick peck, Big Man stepped forward, giving me a stern glance. “And a hug,” he demanded. I gave Mommy a proper hug and was allowed on my way.

Big Man isn’t always pro-hug. If I hug Mommy too long when neither of us is going away, he steps in to break it up. He doesn’t know where it might lead, but as reigning baby of the family, instinct tells him it could be dangerous.


Money for nothing (and some chips for free)

A whole year ago, at the tender age of three, Buster began pulling at my heart strings to make me feel guilty about leaving for work in the mornings. I eventually bought him off by explaining that I had to work to earn money so I could buy things, like cookies and Doritos.

The horrible thought of not being able to afford snacks toned down his guilt trip, allowing me to get away without feeling I was abandoning my children to the wolves. For months, I believed a boy’s lust for cookies had solved the abandonment issue.

I was wrong.

It’s not that Buster has committed himself to anything drastic, like healthy eating; he’s just never fully abandoned the notion that he can have both Daddy on weekday mornings and cookies.

This morning he introduced his new tactic. “Don’t go to work,” he pleaded. “I’ll give you money if you stay home.”

So it’s come to this – children trying to buy their parents’ love. Doesn’t he know that never works?

First of all, it’s the government’s job to pay people not to work, and he could get into a lot of trouble if the government found out he was honing in on its racket. Second, I know the sum of ready cash to which he has access. It amounts to about $2. I don’t know how many Oreos he thinks that will buy, but it’s hardly an economic incentive to keep me at home when I can make double that amount by going to work.

In Buster's mind, this is how much money he can offer me. Here, he pictures me going off to trade it for a cartload of treats.

In Buster’s mind, this is how much money he can offer me. Here, he pictures me going off to trade it for a cartload of treats. Unlike going to work, this is a valid reason for me to leave the house.

Consequently, I had to refuse his offer, but he didn’t take defeat lying down. In fact, he would only take it by being picked up. As I bent over to hug him goodbye, he made the apparently innocent request, “Pick me up and hug me.” This request is anything but innocent.

Buster is a world champion hugger, and once he gets his hug all up over you, it’s a chore to break free of it. He’s all arms and legs, which encircle his target like creeping vines. He is one prehensile tail away from having the grip of a monkey in a windstorm.

But the real curse of his hug is the sweet, warm feeling of being loved it gives the hugged. It must be a similar dreamlike feeling that insects get after being injected with venom and wrapped up snug in a spider web. You want to resign yourself to captivity.

Every time I pull away from Buster’s hug, he leaves with another little piece of my heart. But a man greedy for a fistful of quarters does what he has to do. Somehow, I did it soon enough to stay on schedule for work.

That’s when I encountered the slowest, longest, freight train on Earth, crossing the road between me and my workplace.

I was annoyed that the train made me late, but I was even more annoyed that I could have used that time to get more Best Hug in the World.