A real dad touches his child as often as he possibly can. This rule is among the most important of all the Real Dad Rules, and yet is the number one rule being followed less and less because of a society whose members have gotten into the habit of over-scrutinizing a man’s every move with his child.
I believe it goes without saying that there is a very wide, very black and white line between appropriate touch and inappropriate touch. This discussion specifically centers on the miraculous, healing, and beautiful touch that comes to children at the tender hands of their real dads. The only thing I feel inclined to mention about inappropriate touch is this: real dads don’t do it, and they don’t need any guidebook telling them not to do it or where the line is.
But oh the delightful and calming power of healthy touch! There is no force more powerful in all the world to bond one person to another, and more specifically a child to her parents. Real dads touch their children in poignant and influential ways, and they never stop to think about what cultural proscriptions might exist, who might be watching, or what people might be thinking. They touch their children freely and openly, always aware of the powerful transfer that exists every time they do.
I’ve shared countless moments of touch with Noah since he was minutes old. As an infant, I used to sit in the bathtub with him pressed against my chest for half an hour or more while he slept on top of me. I spent those moments caressing his back or rubbing his tiny hands between my fingers.
As he aged and grew more cognizant of his surroundings, I’d lay in bed beside him, snuggled together under the sheets, singing silly songs or reciting nursery rhymes while he played with my hair and smiled. Usually he’d fall asleep next to me, his peaceful grin still spread across his face.
Even now, as I put him to bed each night, we enjoy the same routine. It starts with a bedtime story. I lie down, and he lies down next to me, excited for whichever adventure we’re about to enjoy together. Each night I scratch his bare back or rub his exposed tummy while we read. If I stop, he insists that I keep doing it. If I forget to do it in the first place, he pulls up his shirt and reminds me.
After story time, I put him in bed and let him choose a song. As I sing, he’s only content if I’m making skin-on-skin contact somehow. He loves to have his neck rubbed, his feet held, his legs massaged, and his face stroked. Sometimes, after the song, and after we hug and kiss goodnight, I walk out the door and his little voice squeaks its way around the entrance to his room. “Daddy, can you come rub my tummy some more? I just really want you to rub my tummy right now.”
The way he asks is far from manipulative. It’s far from a ploy to keep from sleeping. It’s simply a little boy who has a need to be touched, and who knows that he is free to ask for it.
And sometimes, as a colossal reinforcement that my son learns by example, Noah touches me in the very ways that I touch him. Most of the time he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. As we’re lying watching a movie he reaches out and rubs my (much less cute and much more hairy) stomach. As I’m sitting at my computer, he often begins scratching my back. As we wrestle and roughhouse, he often presses his face against mine, and leaves it there just long enough to feel a connection. He invents games that involve healthy touch. He finds new ways to experience healthy touch. And he loves healthy touch.
I get to experience these moments of touch several times every day. I get to witness my bond with my child strengthen itself every time we find a positive way to exchange photons. I get to smile as my son purposefully wiggles and positions himself in such a way to sneak extra moments of touch with me. I get the satisfaction of knowing that my son will be able to give and receive healthy touch over the course of his life because of what we now experience together.
Many there are, unfortunately, who never learn this skill. To both let oneself be touched and to give meaningful touch to others is often a learned ability, one which will not develop on its own, yet one that must be developed by any human who wishes to be truly successful, healthy, and powerful in communication.
While physical touch is a basic biological need shared by everyone, it’s also its very own powerful language which has the ability to communicate in ways that words simply cannot do. It has the ability to ask permission and it has the ability to ask forgiveness. It has the ability to show hesitation or fear, and it has the ability to instill confidence, conviction, or assurance.
With one touch, a person can often sense whether another is sincere or if they are dishonest. They can tell when a person is being genuine, and they can tell when a person is being pretentious.
Touch conveys emotion. When the energy of two people connects, such feelings as love, lust, gratitude, happiness, bitterness, or worry often come to the surface. Likewise, feelings of complete isolation and distrust can also turn up.
And perhaps, most significantly, those who haven’t learned the ability to touch and be touched often experience far less meaningful relationships. They experience difficulty truly connecting with their partner. They experience certain levels of distrust and jealousy. They never learn what it’s like to give truly of one’s self and to receive from another in return.
Forgiveness comes less naturally, for often there is no way to receive the message of true remorse except through the proper methods of touch.
Children who aren’t taught this ability often miss out on some or all of these vital forms of communication throughout their lives. They are forced to decipher a person based on words and body language alone. They are often misled and they often misconstrue the intentions and actions of others, which more often than not lead them to make irrational and fearful decisions that didn’t need to be made.
Research has shown that those who aren’t touched are at a greatly increased likelihood of having problems with drug addictions, eating disorders, attention disorders, promiscuity, and trust. Further research has shown that those who aren’t touched have a much higher likelihood of becoming workaholics, purposefully driving themselves away from others in the pursuit of success, all as a means to hide from the discomfort they feel being close to another.
Research has also shown that touching others and being touched has a powerful effect in healing both the body and the mind. Those who know, understand, and appreciate touch experience improved physical and mental health. They have a much lower mortality rate compared to their untouched counterparts, and they generally perform better in their careers.
But, as intriguing as the science behind touch is, real dads have a simpler view on it. Real dads touch their children because they know that it makes their children feel love. Real dads touch their children because they know that it makes their children feel trust. Real dads touch their children because they know that it is good for them.
They also touch their children because they know that not touching them is one of the most passively damaging things a father can do to his child. A real dad somehow sees that not touching his daughter means that someday she’ll probably go look for that touch in the wrong hands and in the unhealthiest of ways. A real dad somehow sees that not touching his son means that someday he’ll probably distance himself from those he wishes most to love.
A real dad doesn’t see the science, he sees the need. He sees that the more he touches his child, the more his child longs for it and the more his child reciprocates. He sees that the more often he snuggles with his child locked in his arms, the more tender and caring his child becomes. He sees minor or drastic improvements in his child’s disposition and nature. He sees that when his child is touched, she is more helpful, more obedient, and more thoughtful to how her actions affect her parents and others. He sees that his child’s fears all but dissipate and that his child’s trust in the goodness of mankind grows.
And while a real dad does everything he can to protect his child from the predators and perverts of the world, he knows that there is always a chance some other person will find a way to cross that line and touch his child inappropriately. And so, knowing that such a thing is a possibility, and knowing that the odds of such a thing happening are reduced with every positive and good touch his child experiences, he finds ways to touch his child in safe and healthy ways all the more often.
Real dads know that touch can often help a parent gauge when something more serious is wrong. A father who is in the habit of sharing beautiful touch with his child will be able to discern variations in his child’s responses to that touch. He’ll feel a change in energy, and he’ll be able to discuss it with his child, confront it, and work with his child to move past it.
He also knows that if his child ever becomes a victim, she’ll be able to distinguish good touch from bad touch. And, having such ability will likely free her from the excess guilt and torment that often follow those children into adulthood that have been touched or forced to touch inappropriately.
Simply put, real dads know that if they touch their child in healthy, beautiful, and significant ways, their children will be able to weather the storm should abuse from others enter the picture. They know that should it happen (God forbid it ever does), their kids will be all right.
And while even the thought of inappropriate touch should cause any parent to become physically ill, how sad is it for the man or woman who looks upon healthy touch and condemns it or declares it to be inappropriate. You are wrong.
I live in the same society you do. I live in a time when the realities of abuse have made others paranoid. I live in a day and age where I can pull out my phone, open certain software, and immediately see the photographs and conviction details of dozens upon dozens of sex predators, all living within a one mile radius of where I currently am. I turn on the television and see entire programs covering the topic of sexual abuse. I see stories about it in the newspaper almost daily. It is portrayed in books and movies. More and more people I love and care about surface with their own stories.
But as real dads, we can not care about or absorb such fears. We can not lend thought to the possibility of incorrect judgments placed on us by others. We cannot withhold our loving touch in exchange for assurance from tainted sources that we are acting within our limits.
When we do, our children’s needs go unmet. When we do, the future of our children is darkened and disrupted. When we do, we doom our children to lives less full, less complete, and less beautiful. We damage them in ways we never fully understand. And for what?
This topic has become taboo at best. I for one can no longer accept it as such. It is time that the real dads in this world talk about loving touch. It’s time they openly display their affection to their children in public places. It’s time that they turn the table on society’s paranoia. It’s time we set the example together.
Real dads touch their kids.
If that statement makes you uncomfortable, I believe there are some things you need to consider. I believe there are beliefs you need to reevaluate. I believe there is a serious gap in your thinking.
If you are a real dad, immediately go and find a way to lovingly and appropriately touch your child. Scratch your daughter’s back. Wrestle with your son. Link your daughter’s leg over yours while you’re watching a movie. Tussle your boy’s hair.
Then, don’t ever stop finding ways to offer loving touch to your child.
As your child ages, the need and want for so much touch will certainly diminish, but it will never disappear. And you guessed it. Real dads are on top of that, too.
PS. Today’s post is the seventh chapter in a read-along of my new book The Real Dad Rules (which will go on through February of next year). Don’t wait to read the rest of The Real Dad Rules! Get your own copy today (Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Hardcover, or visit the official Real Dad Rules webpage for signed copies or bulk discounts). Get it for yourself. Get it for your kids. Give it as a gift. Just get it, and get in on the conversation!
While I wrote this book to everyday dads (from an everyday dad), I believe that its message can be applied to and appreciated by mothers and fathers alike. And, if you believe in the message of The Real Dad Rules, and if you love what you’ve read so far, please do Noah and me two huge favors! First, please share this page with your friends and family. Second, please take a second and leave a five-star review on Amazon (or Nook/iBooks).
I went five years without seeing my parents. First thing we did upon seeing each other after all that time was hug, kiss and cry for 10 minutes nonstop. I don't see anything wrong with showing love and caring through touching your loved ones. I grew up lying in my father's hairy beer-belly listening to his daily business and work schedule, and after he was done, I'd tell him my daily stories. This was an essential part of my childhood and I cherished every moment of it. We would kiss and hug each other when departing or coming home, etc. I was a late-comer at a time when my parents no longer expected to have any kids, both in their late forties, so according to my mother I was the only child to ever have that kind of affection from my father. Today, unfortunately, we have distanced ourselves a bit due to my coming out, and moving to the US, but when we get to speak on the phone, in his best moments and in mine, we always end with an affectionate "I love you and I miss you so very much." I truly believe it was due to those early bonding experiences that we still remain emotionally close, even though he does not approve of my acceptance of myself as a gay man, he still loves me. Today I am as affectionate with all my close friends, male or female, as I was with my parents. Touching, hugging, kissing, scratching is part of my daily repertoire when showing that I truly care. I just wish more people were as open. Some of us can barely bring ourselves to a simple handshake, much less a hug or a kiss.
For all the things my parents did wrong, the one thing they got right was this. We were a very physically affectionate family. Lots of hugs and hair tossles. when I was young, especially when I was sick, my day would lay me next to him on the sofa or in bed and lightly rub my back or my chest. To this day, it is something that still comforts me when I am blue, though being single, I now usually have to rub my own face or arm, just to get touched. I am thankful for the fact that my dad was that comfortable with touching, more than my mom even, and because of it, I am a physically affectionate person today and it is one of the things that I like about myself. Never stop touching your kids or your loved ones. Even just the short back "scritch" when you are sitting next to them - over the shirt - is a wonderful way to connect.
I remember being touched lovingly as a child, from both of my parents and my grandmother. And yet I still went through a period in my late teens / early twenties where I shied away from much in the way of physical contact, especially with people I didn't know really well like family. Oddly enough, it's my fiancé who helped me overcome that without even realising it. See, he's a hugger. Most of his close friends and wider social circle are huggers. So it became a question of either joining in or standing around feeling uncomfortable while my partner went and hugged everyone when we met or parted. I chose the former, and gradually grew comfortable with it again. Now I tend to just automatically go to hug someone and occasionally have that moment of awkwardness as I realise they were expecting a handshake. :)
As a person that was raised with a lot of physical touch, I really appreciate this post. I've been struggling the last few years because of the lack of touch in my life; I spend a few years living on my own with no outlet for healthy, non-sexual touch. Even now that I am no longer alone in my house, I'm still lacking touch because all of the time I spent alone has made it seem "abnormal" to touch the others I live with as much as I need/want to be touched. I still have a strong desire to touch and often dream and fantasize about intimate, non-sexual touching even though I am afraid to even casually touch others in social settings for fear of being rejected or publicly called out for harassment.
The power of human touch is amazing. Healthy, loving, respectful touch can literally change a person's life. I am a massage therapist so I know a lot of the research that goes into the impact of touch, particularly on a child... but really on any person, of any age. My Dad was/is more free with touch than my Mom, because of the way she was raised she is just not comfortable with much and it is a real effort for her to reach out physically. I think I take after my Dad :) Interestingly enough, my husband's father was also more "touch connected" with his kids than his Mom was, and to this day he is much closer to his Dad. Thanks for reminding Dads that it is SO critically important to their child!!
My older son likes what he calls tummy snuggles. He lifts both our shirts up showing out tummies and then give me a hug so our tummies touch lol. It's pretty cute.
I wish my father had been like you and all the other touch-friendly fathers out there. His touch was definitely NOT healthy and it's really affected me in my (almost) adult life and it has affected my relationships with other people/men.
Oh my gosh, with little kids, hugging is as natural as breathing. How do we ever lose that?
Thanks, Dan. love, Val
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This was the greatest gift my husband gave me. I come from a family that is not very touch-oriented - little hugging, kissing, or touching of any kind. My husband taught me the joy of simply holding hands or giving little touches throughout the day to connect. It's allowed me to enjoy that with our children as a way of expressing my love to them. And I love watching him with them.
So nice to read this. Being the "Mom" and primary caretaker my son receives a lot of loving touch from me. But what chokes me up every time is the few crucial hours in the evenings from when my husband walks in the door until my son goes to bed, the amount of touching they do. My husband is a built, burly, tattooed, biker, but when it comes to his son he is a jungle gym, WWF partner, movie pillow, bear hugger, scratchy face kisser, tickle monster and quiet time companion. They touch all the time and my husband is not afraid to show it. He doesnt care where they are or what they are doing, he loves nothing more than to having his boy on his shoulders or in his arms or walking side by side with my sons tiny hand in my husbands huge one. He loves his boy and I guarantee that my son knows it. Why, because he touches and loves his son!
I love this post, my ex husband was so bothered by my snuggling our sons and my affection with my own father, he would tell me how wrong it was, that little boys shouldnt be so cuddly with their parents and that grownups shouldnt still kiss their parents, it was one of the reasons we divorced, I just hope his coldness doesnt affect my boys and that they learn from me. Youre a great father Dan!
Absolutely Beautiful post Dan! As I read, I was emotionally touched. I live for the touch between myself and my daughter. I swear I would die w/o her touch. I hold my daughter each night to put her to sleep. While I caress her little round cheeks and run my fingers through her hair, she rubs my chest and neck. Touch is an extension of our love for each other. I love the way you talk of the love of yourself and Noah.
I've recently started seeing a man who is very touchy-feely. He loves to cuddle, caress my skin, touch and run his fingers through my hair. Every chance he gets, he touches me- doodles on my leg as we watch tv, scratches my back when we hug, moves his leg against mine while we eat. There've been a number of times that he's pulled my feet onto his lap and begun rubbing them. It's wonderful to see a man who is comfortable with the simple joy of just touching!
BTW- I recently found a word for the hair thing- cafune'.. it's Portugese for the affectionate running of your fingers through another's hair.
It's a sad world that we live in to where people can no longer distinguish between healthy and unhealthy touching of children, particularly their own. I cannot imagine how dreary, how bleak life would be if I could not touch, hug, tickle, or kiss my child. I would not want to be part of such a world.
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I was all about the touching until the courts intervened. Damned courts.
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Thank you for this, so much. I was raised in a house where touch was taboo, especially from my father. As a child, the only touch I received was from a much older boy in the neighborhood, and it was far from appropriate. The result has been that I am suspicious of any show of affection, even now. Touch still scares me. I've tried to overcome it, and my longing is for a healthy physical relationship with a man, but I haven't been able to find one willing to be patient and gentle enough to help me get through this. At nearly 40, I've just about given up. I hope that many parents will read this post and not make the same mistake that my parents did. And I still dream of someday embracing healthy forms of touch and raising children of my own in a very different way.
I think that this post should be broadcast and put on billboards.
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Another really fantastic post. Looks to me like this book of yours really delivers. I'll definitely be buying it for anybody in my life who becomes a new dad.
I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a family who knew the power of touch. I know that if I'm having a rough day then all I need to do is get some physical affection and it cheers me right up. And like you mentioned, the kids do reciprocate, which is great incentive for the parents to touch their kids, right? Who doesn't want a free massage? I regularly realize that I've been rubbing my dad's scalp or my mom's back for minutes without having noticed that I was doing it :P
As somebody who has siblings younger than them, I also really see how the ok-to-touch way they were raised affects them. My 8 year old brother still snuggles and hugs and sits on laps every chance he gets.
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I like to touch too, I am very touchy-feely, my boyfriend is not and does not understand why I am, I am trying to get him to be a little more touchy-feely, but it's a long process. I love him so it's worth it. My daddy was always good with holding us and stuff when he was around but he wasn't around that much, my grandmother on the other hand was and is still always willing to give us a hug or when we were little curl us up in her lap.
Great post, Dan.
When our son was born, my husband did not ever kiss him on the lips like I did. He felt uncomfortable doing so. I encouraged him there was nothing wrong with a father kissing his child... but didn't pressure him. Then, once our son was about 10 months old, he learned how to give kisses - right on the lips. It was only about a week before my husband gave in and let himself be kissed. That broke down his boundaries. He realized, from that one kiss from his son, what a special and loving touch it was. And now he kisses him goodbye, and goodnight, and good morning... and anytime during the day that our son climbs onto his lap for snuggles and offers a kiss. It melts my heart every time. For some men to never allow their children to kiss them, all for the fear of what others might think, is tragic. :(
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A study I read a while back says we as humans need at least 7 hugs a day to feel properly emotionally nourished. I wish we got those seven hugs. This is a fabulous article. I wish I could have had my mom read it when I was younger, I think her lack of touch when I was younger made it so I don't like to hug or have physical contact with her now.
However I have developed a comfort of touch around friends and other loved ones. There's nothing better than a kiss on the cheek, a long warm hug, or just snuggling up with someone while talking with others, even if your cuddle buddy is strictly platonic. I feel like our society has made non-romantic touch taboo because they feel it can be too easy mis-understood, we need to return the meaning back to what it was.
I absolutely LOVE your entire Blog!!!! Every single post is inspirational and thought provoking. I wish there were more Dad's out there who think as you do! Touch is soooooo important. Your son is going to make a wonderful Father and Husband someday! Carry on the good work!!
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Very true, Dan. I believe that both parents can be really good at this, although I think sometimes men shy away from it, or think that "Moms are just better at that." My husband often sits with 2-3 of our kids on his lap while we watch movies, for instance. When he comes home from work, they literally bound into his arms, and it makes his day.
My 5-year-old has an obsession with my tummy. She loves to rub it and kiss it. It's something seemingly small and silly, and yet very intimate. I cherish it while I can, although I will say that when she goes to pull up my shirt in public, I do have a hard time with it. lol
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This is a great post, Dan.
I grew up in a very-healthy-touchy-feely family, and I am still a cuddle-bug to this day.
My fiance didn't have that as much growing up, so he sees parent-to-child touch as a little weird. I'm trying to show him the benefits of hugging my son, wrestling, putting an arm around, getting a bear hug, or any other type of healthy touch.
High fives just don't cut it in our family :)
I think the cats have it right - what do they do when they sense our stress? They come up and love on us because we need that touch, that energy to calm us down and help us relax.
We need that. A real man knows when his kid needs a hug and when he needs a high-five. Or just a pat on the head, a tousle of the hair, a pat on the back, or even nothing at all - just "i'm here buddy when you need me."
A great parent knows.
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"Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over,
before he is born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, or
taste, and no human ever ceases to need it. Keep your children short on
pocket money--but long on hugs."
-- Robert A Heinlein
I am delighted by your ideas, possibly because they so often mirror my own. ;-) Seriously tho, Dan, there are a lot of people who are so glad you continue to share your thoughts. Thanks for reminding me to hug people whenever I can!
My husband was raised in a non affectionate family. Occasional hugs, kisses on the cheek, but never on the lips. As anyone could imagine, the touch you mention was unfamiliar to him and uncomfortable. I was raised the exact opposite. One night we were putting my two two boys to bed, one of them kissed him square on the mouth. He kissed him too, though he was caught off guard. Later we talked about how I taught them to love like that and he realized how special it was for my kids to share their love with him. We now have 2 more boys who are cuddled, held, hugged, kissed...touched in every good way possible by both of us. My husband just needed a "good mom" to teach him.
Love this post, but I have a feeling that some people might see a problem with the title. lol.
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I can't agree more. Go real dads!
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The only 'touch' that wasn't a hit that I can remember getting from my dad, was when he put his hand on my shoulder on the day of my high school graduation. I had even less from my mother. It know that it has had a huge impact on my life and my every day.
1) I make sure to be the opposite with my son and my husband. I commented here earlier about this. It makes every difference in our family dynamic.
2) my dad is now in a nursing home and I make sure to hold his hand, rub his back & arms and I even give him pedicures & manicures with a message included. I can only guess that he didn't know how to be affectionate with us, because he was raised that way. I've decided it isn't too late to teach him. It has been therapy for me to slowly forgive and grow closer to my dad before he's gone. And I can only hope that it brings him comfort as well.
There's a hilarious story in This American Life that is in regards to touching your kids: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/ep...
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Definitely a message both moms and dads should listen to. Despite being a person who can be easily touched out and who has a giant bubble, contact with my children doesn't affect it. My son loves me to rub his back lightly and can still be put to sleep that way at the age of 6. They love hugs or a caress on the face. I learned about the importance of touch while reading up on kangaroo care with a new baby and I've never forgotten it. Skin-to-skin contact makes for a happier, healthier child. Happily, my husband realizes this, too.
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This is such a very, very powerful post for me on a number of levels. As a now grown child who was not frequently touched, as a parent who believes touch is essential and as a person undergoing a physical transition, I've come to realize that I struggle mightily with touch and how to both give and receive it.
Thank you for another great post! I grew up in a family that wasn't physically close, and I suffer from issues, including a duplicity in my mind about how I feel about touch, due to it. I'm determined to overcome my touch obstacles, for my own sake, as well as the sake of the children I hope to have in the future. Your post has only made me all the more determined to do so!
I am not a Dad. I am a mom. I still lay down with my daughter who will be 6 in a week and I rub her tummy, back, legs, feet and head every night.
I'm now 45, and one of my favorite childhood memories is my Dad putting me to bed at night and giving me a light "tickle" massage on my back. I loved every second of it and would always ask for more. Recently my father was in a nursing home and not doing very well. I would always tickle massage him on his head and arms and he loved it, and would always say "more", smiling and knowing that he was mimicking what I would say as a child. Last year we were all in the room with him and holding and touching him through his passing last year, which I know brought him peace and love during those moments. Now, as a new Dad, I continue his same touch through to my 16 month old daughter, and she loves it too. I can't imagine a world without my Dad's loving touch.
My daughter is 10 now and besides women, she's close w/ her father, her uncle, her godfather and her grandfather. I trust them and I've thanked each one of them individually for touching her, holding her and loving her in the healthy, appropriate way that dads, uncles, godfathers and grandfathers can and do. I know that they know what's right and I want her to learn what "okay" feels like so that she has a correct standard. I'm grateful for them and their love and affection, both physical and emotional. She's learning how real men treat people the people they care for.
Wow! Amazing post. It made me realize why I don't particularly like to be touched and why I'm suspicious of folks who do. I feel terrible that there was a time when I didn't touch my daughter nearly enough. Thank you for being a really great dad!
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Another wonderfully inspiring post Dan! I bought your book for my ex-husband for Father's Day this year. He grew up without hugs from his family. He got into a relationship and then a marriage with me, who was a natrually touchy person. He learned a lot. I'd like to see him be a little more touchy with our boys, but he does much better than his family did.
Our boys are natural huggers and must tell me that they love me at least a thousand times a day & give me a billion hugs! =) I hope to continue to foster the love of touch in them so they can raise healthy children of their own.
Awesome post- This is an eye opener- it makes you really take a look around and recognize why we are who we are, I'm Not a touchy-feely person- I wasn't raised with much more than occasional hugs. Hugging adults has always been awkward. But I have friends that this is a normal mode of greeting and parting ways- Now I find I almost expect it. Their young son is very open with his hugs. It makes me smile.
In my own relationship- I find that over the years, we have both learned to touch in healing ways, and are STILL learning. He come from a large family where dad NEVER hugged any of his kids. Or showed any affection (imagine the train wreck of emotions there.) Every step of progress brings a different kind of happiness. You are never too old to grow and learn.
I am one of those adults who learned not to trust touches as a child b/c of years of inappropriate touching. It got to the point where friendly hugs came with fear and distrust. People learned NOT to touch me b/c I was clearly uncomfortable. Yet, I didn't want to be that way. Luckily I am in a wonderful relationship with a guy who's had a lifetime of experience with healthy touches and is very comfortable with himself and others. He was very patient with me when I explained my fears. I can't say that I'm 'cured' but I love touching him and allowing him to touch me in healthy (nonsexual) ways. Through him I've actually found myself more able to give and receive healthy touches from others. It does make such a difference.
This is a truly GORGEOUS and lush post. I really appreciate you speaking from the viewpoint of the Dad and FOR Dad's. So many of them fear this topic and I hate that we live in a society where it's even uncomfortable.
Nice one :)
This post was very thought provoking. Now that I think about it, ever since my brother was a baby, I've always used healing touch. Till this day he still asks for snuggles and back scratches. I'm so happy I've complied. :D
We were a touchy-feely family growing up... and at the age of 66, my dad still kisses ALL SIX of his children (and all his assorted grandchildren, if they let him) on the mouth. We all get full bear hugs, too. I am a touchy-feely person as well; took a while for my husband (who was not raised that way) to give and to receive it. It's never embarrassed any of my siblings nor myself; it also sets a great example for our kids. I still touch my daughter (almost 12); she sometimes pulls away, but I know it's not that she doesn't like it; it's that she's trying to find herself & who she is. As she grows up, she will continue to know we are a constant in her life, no matter what.
I treasure the times that my 4 year old son wants to be "belly to belly' because it's a reminder of when he was a baby and would curl up on my chest. It's the same basic skin to skin principle for comfort and calm, just with a much taller "baby".
Thanks for the great post! I ran across it while searching for "is it wrong for my child to rub my back." My daughter is 3, going on 4 and we play, wrestle and at times, I do a bit of spoiling but.. she's so cute, I can't help it.
One example, is at bedtime - I do the taco tuck in (wrap her up tight under the blanket), give big hugs a kisses and let her decide if she wants the lights on or off. I'll stand outside the door because she'll usually call me and say, "my back hurts" or "my head itches." She's asking me to scratch her head or rub her back and I do for a minute or so, re-tuck her in, give her a kiss and that's it for the night - all in the manner as described in the post. With an insane amount of love.
Now, my daughter wakes up before me and she'll come in (she always knocks first) and says good morning and asks if she can feed her fish (a little beta close to my bed. The last time I left one close to her, she tried to put lotion on him). She'll tell me that she wants to brush her teeth and I know her intention is to be able to use the mouthwash. All she wants to do is be able to pour it herself - and I let her. All the while watching her out of the corner of my eye. Every morning it's like this and I'm amazed every time I see it. It never gets old.
Anyway, then she crawls in my bed as I'm still in the process of waking up and asks, want me to rub your back? I say sure. She rubs my back for about 10 or 15 seconds and says "is that good?" Just like I do when I'm done rubbing her back. Tickles me every time. Then of course, right after she gives that sad face with "I'm Huuuungry." I ask, wucha want to eat.. I want Pancackes and Oranges and Bacon and.. Ummm.. Cerial and Cake and Candy. OK but Candy only after I eat aaaalll my eggs...
Now, I've done the same thing with my older daughter (she's now 11) and I've raised them up pretty well. I've just gotten married and a few moments ago, my wife (their step mother) brought it up by saying it was inappropriate for my daughter to rub my back.
I got defensive because it just blew my mind. Actually I got pretty pissed as it seemed more of a jelousy/putting the kids first issue - however - with age comes wisdom so I kept my thoughts to myself and started Googling.
My question.. Is it innapropriate for my daughter to rub my back as I described above. To me it's like a morning routine and it never came up as a thought - even in this overly protective fathers mind.
It's so lovely that you are teaching your dad the power of touch. It's never too late. I too had a father whose only touch was a hit, and I know the enormity of the chasm that is left as a result. You are amazing :D
Anthony, in no way is it inappropriate for you to let your daughter rub your back!
It does sound like your new wife may have some issues with touch, or jealousy.
I'm a healthy 22 year old female who was raised by a single father, he always let us hug him, rub his belly (especially his back, free massage!) and play with his feet. We LOVED it! I still love hugging him, when I have a particularly bad day or bad week, or just feel so amazing I need to share it, I still reach out to him.
Even my oldest brother asks for his hugs, or to be held when he feels sick. Touch is a natural way of saying "I love you" and all those other things this article talks about.
Don't be confused about that, and I do hope you are careful about how your wife talks to your girls about that. People used to confuse me all the time when I was little by asking weird questions or thinking too sexually about how our father touched us. For a while it freaked me out, then I went back to realizing "healthy touch". It is good! For both of you! That's why it's called "healthy".
I do hope this helps and I hope you don't stop.