The Five-Minute Hug
I’m sitting at the dining room table engrossed in my work, and my ten-year-old son breaks in to give me a hug. No words, just arms reaching around and a body filling in the tiny space between me and the table. I don’t see him coming. I bark at him, “What are you doing? Can’t you see I’m working?” I fail to see the opportunity before me. I miss his heart because I’m in the middle of a sweet spot of productivity. (An in-the-zone spot I don’t often get.)
When he interrupts, I don’t see his real heart message—my son wants to love on me. Physical touch matters to him. I forget that he won’t be 10 and wanting hugs like this forever. Maybe I should respond with a drop-everything attitude, but I don’t. In the moment, I’m blinded by my todo list. He’s disappointed. I feel like a big loser. But my temporary shortsightedness ended abruptly. I came up with an idea.
A New Idea
“I’ll give you five minutes of uninterrupted hug time, ” I told him, “but you have to commit to the whole time. No looking at the clock. No squirming away. ”
“Ok,” he agreed. I set the timer. He sat on my lap, arms wrapped around me, for five whole, just-us-together minutes.
Guess what happened with our five-minute hug experiment?
It was wonderful—for both of us. I decided to ask my other children for five minutes too.
My daughters—ages 5 and 12 at the time—bought into the idea immediately. They waited eagerly for their turn. When it came to my oldest—then, a young man of 16—he wasn’t buying it.
I didn’t expect him to hop on my lap. I’d get crushed. Instead, he’d sit next to me shoulder-to-shoulder, and I’d put my arm around him. Or, whatever felt comfortable. Reluctantly, he laid his head on my lap. I put my hand on his shoulder. In the end, our together felt sweet. (No, he didn’t tell me it was sweet. It felt sweet to me, and this mom knew it fed his heart even though he’d never admit it.) We had no expectation apart from physical touch.
Physical touch comes easy when children are little but tends to fade as they get older. Just because kids aren’t asking for a hug or a snuggle time like they had when they were little doesn’t mean they don’t need it. We all need the richness of loving arms around us.
That day, I decided to do this every day. Not forever, but for the time being. I wanted to have five minutes of physical, together time with each of my children. Kind of like a micro-mini date of sorts.
Here’s five reasons why five minutes works:
- Everyone can spare five minutes.
- It’s short enough to leave everyone wanting more. And if the time permits, there’s not reason to stop at five.
- Even a wiggly worm can do it. Maybe not children of all ranges of wiggly-ness can stay connected for five minutes at first, but it can be built up over time. My oldest, when he was little, wouldn’t sit long for anything–except for a book. A five-minute-hug book works for wiggly worms who like stories. The physical touch is key here. My youngest at 5 was squirmy at times, but we didn’t stay still like stones for five minutes. We’d take turns with butterfly kisses or kiss all over the face kisses or big squeezes. I-Spy and Knock-knock jokes kept us happily occupied.
- A mom of multiple children gets one-on-one time. I have four children. That’s 20 minutes of my day. Some days I don’t think I can spare a minute, but I have found this investment valuable enough to work it into my day.
- Everyone needs a pause—even if it is just for five minutes.
The five-minute hug won’t solve the problems of the world. I haven’t found my children become more obedient because of this. When they are upset with my “lame” (a teenager term for good parenting) mommy decisions, they resist the idea of the five-minute hug. In those situations, I’ve waited it out. When we miss five minutes, we have ten minutes the next day.
We did five-minute hugs for over a year and stopped when my two middle children had an extended summer visit with family. We enjoyed our five-minute hugs, snuggles, or just togetherness times. During that time, we talked or chose to be silent. We laughed. We shared our hearts.
We still talk about ” doing five” (a term we used to mean five-minute hug). It’s not in our regular routine for everyone now, but we bring it back at times. Whenever they ask, I make time for five.
I feel thankful for the gift of five-minute hugs.
And to think, this all came about as a response to being interrupted.
I’m so glad my son interrupted me.
What do you think about the five-minute hug?
Would you consider investing in five minutes of together time with your child? No agenda, just you two being you—together. Let me know if you give it a try.