Hugs and Cuddles and Things That Make You Feel Sick

11/11/2008 By Shawn Burns

I don’t quite remember when Erin started giving hugs voluntarily instead of out of self-defense as her mom or I tried to squeeze her joy into the world. And I don’t remember when she started running up to us and hugging our legs just below the knees.

There was a gap, a long period in which she was no longer helpless (and so couldn’t struggle away from us), but too excited about exploring the world to remember to return to us, her lifegivers, and reward us with some spontaneous affection.

She does offer up the occasional hug now. And she’ll lean in with a kiss and a loud "mah!" When she hugs she says "awww" and pats my shoulder as if to reassure me: "You are doing a good job, guys." But she still isn’t a stay-at-home-kid. She isn’t one to sit in a lap and watch the world.

She owns the world, and she needs to explore her fiefdom as often as possible.

We know other toddlers who are much more willing to sit with mom or dad. Erin is wriggly. She learned the word "down" and she isn’t afraid to use it. We wonder sometimes what the world is like for parents who have stay-close kids. Who, when they put their toddler down in the middle of a patch of grass she doesn’t immediately run to the edge and try to leap into the street. Do they feel more rested? My legs get tired chasing that kid around.

Her daycare teachers described her as "busy" after her first day. I think that was polite code for "what are you feeding her?" or possibly "You will have to teach her to settle down and eat her snack or she will always come home with milk on her shirt."

As of this weekend though, proving that parents are rewarded for patience, we’ve figured out what slows Erin down and turns her into a cuddling homebody: a fever of 102.

She developed a fever over the weekend and she’s been adorably, uncharacteristically needy. Emily wanted to keep her up late just to get in more hug time, because Erin has been laying out on our chests like she hasn’t done since she was a squalling infant. She’ll rest up a little, then get playful again, then get tired and crawl up into a lap. And today was the first time in months that she has fallen asleep in my arms.

I miss that, so much. I’m not sure I miss it "watch a fever of 102 for a couple of days and listen to the occasional miserable whimper" much. But a lot.

I love that kid. I don’t want her to be sick. I want her to go off and own the world again. But those spans of time when she forgets to dish out some spontaneous affection had better abbreviate. I don’t want to have to carry a vial of flu virus around with me when she’s in high school just to make sure I get a hug before prom.

(Editor’s Note: I figured that I kind of owed a daddy blogger post. Especially since this site was inexplicably included in Sweetney’s 10 Favorite Dad Blogs and On Teens Today’s Top 50 Dad Blogs list. Sweetney’s list I understand because I can and will quote from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog at the drop of a hat and that makes me objectively awesome. But the On Teen’s Today list was a real surprise. Teens care what dads think? I hope that stays true for at least 18 more years.)