“Mommy, I snuggle wif you.”
My then-2-year old looked up at me with clear blue eyes behind long blond lashes & held out his chubby little hands in classic greedy-toddler fashion, opening & closing his little fists hurriedly. I was exhausted, hot, cranky & very pregnant, & all I wanted was a little personal space. Couldn’t my body just be my own for a bit?
But, in dutiful mom fashion, I reminded myself that: a) my toddler’s needs were important since he was getting less of me than ever & b) he wasn’t going to want to snuggle with me for the rest of his life. I wrapped my left arm around him & allowed him to sink into his favorite spot, wedged up against my straining belly, while I forced my thoughts away from the terrible sensation of the fat, hot dollop of sweat that was rolling out from under my maternity bra. I was uncomfortable, but I still felt love & joy in spite of it all.
It turns out that my brain (yours, too) is hard-wired to focus on the feel-good chemistry in moments like these & block out the negative aspects. Here are 2 articles about the benefits of parent-child touch in infancy & beyond: one on the health benefits of cuddling newborns & one more on how family snuggles have brain benefits.
My mini-mindfulness tool today is therefore a bit of a cheat. While eating lunch with my whole family, I happened to lean over to my baby—who was sitting in his high chair having just polished off some spoon-fed applesauce—& rather mindlessly kissed & cooed at him.
You know: “I’m gonna gittem-gittem-gittem!” said in the highest-pitched most obnoxiously gaga-for-baby voice ever, while bringing my nose up to his nose & ending with a flourish of a kiss on said baby nose.
He giggled & squealed & I repeated the process ad nauseam. … Except it didn’t make me nauseated. Rather, it gave me bliss.
Being a mom has its day-to-day cons. I, for one, can get caught up in all of the minutiae—did I brush their teeth? did they get their vitamins? who needs a bath tonight? have we gotten a sufficient quotient of leafy greens & other superfoods this week? did I add orange juice to the grocery list? who’s that I’m smelling & can I coerce my husband into doing this particular diaper change?—to the point that I’m going through the motions of motherhood & forgetting about all of the joy moments. That’s not to say there aren’t daily joy moments, but sadly it is true that on some days they are moments, rather than the converse. I can even take for granted that I have the luxury of loving on a baby every single day right now, cootchy-cooing him absentmindedly while I multi-task (once again) & letting the miracle moment escape me.
But not today.
Today, I took intentional pleasure in his sweet little baby scent; his hot baby breath on my face; his adorable sounds as he both mimicked me & made noises that I aped; his fat, tender hands pawing at my face sweetly; & above all that awesome baby ‘kiss’ where he places both of those little mitts on either side of my face, opens his mouth wide & plants it on a random part of my face in wet joy. Is it any wonder I’m smiling softly as I type this?
I came into awareness a few minutes into our play. I’d abandoned myself fully to the love fest, something I’d already done that morning as I tickled him gently with my hair, repeating little nonsense sounds the same way I had for his big brother as an infant (& still sometimes do for Big Brother in the present). I wondered then if this could possibly count as mindfulness, & it was in that moment that I decided I would make it count … by consciously paying attention to the feelings, sights, sounds & sensations I experienced with this baby bliss. And that act of intentionality made a world of difference. It went on for over 15 minutes!
Did I change what I was already feeling? Perhaps no. But I know that I extended my experience to a far longer time than I would have without that awareness. And that made a world of difference, particularly as it let me bring that good feeling with me throughout the rest of my day.
Tomorrow night is Date Night. I’d like to take the intentionality a step further & practice hugging meditation with my hubby. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on hugging meditation!
Day 7 Mini-Mindfulness Tool:
Tickling My Baby While Aware. This tool is my favorite tool yet!