The Ten Elephant Cuddle

Childhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships Add comments

Hi!

Me cuddling the boys, drawn by Eldest for Mothers’ Day

We are a cuddly bunch in our house.  We are happiest lying like a pride of lions: limbs strewn, hair tousled, comfy clothes on, not any set agenda.

Three out of four of us would take an afternoon nap any day of the week.  The remaining one doesn’t mind watching/doing something quietly while the other three indulge (in whatever combination); and he’s quite partial to someone stroking his feet 😉 When he was under five, he would nap for two straight hours, so he understands our energy dips!

We (well, the boys and I, mostly…) can also be very LOUD and EMOTIONAL and CRAZY, but a hug has magic properties!  Even if one of us is still full of RAGE and not ready to calm straight down, a hug lets them know another person cares.  That they are still part of the family.

Our unit’s members might get really FRUSTRATED and GRUMPY and just plain FED UP with each other at times, but they still love each other fiercely.  Maybe a little too fiercely, hence the arguments…!

The boys adore me. 

Me and Eldest, joined by ‘heartstrings’

They love stroking my tummy and telling me how every stretchmark was made by their tiny selves (and that I have a ‘food baby’ in there – once I’ve eaten and it isn’t flat!). 

Both boys were breastfed (Youngest ‘still’ is) so they see breasts as wonderous things that kept them full as babies (Eldest self-weaned at 10 months) and still help Youngest feel comforted when he is hurt, ill or tired. 

They love stroking my arms, counting the moles on my legs (!) – and Youngest quite often feels compelled to “kiss oo buniwins betta”, even though I have tried to discourage him maaaany times from putting his mouth near my feet…!

The boys especially love it when they are allowed to mess my hair up (I must add that is quite often, because I walk a lot of miles, and I’m usually windswept anyway) and they always exclaim that the resulting styles make me look even prettier than I had done – before kissing my nose or cheek (or elbow.  Youngest is going through a very cute phase).

We can have a really packed day, with many exciting things going on, and yet the boys will always cite “cuddles!” as one of their favourite take aways.  We usually ask them around bedtime what they had enjoyed the most, and hugs are even on a par with visiting Santa, searching for Easter eggs or going to a party!

Bedtime, as all you parents out there can probably attest to, is when their little hearts are unburdened the most.  Around the story book shared, their own stories and emotions tumble out.  Sometimes it can be an obvious ploy to delay the light snapping off, but most of the time it is something they have carried with them all day (sometimes all week) and they feel comfortable enough with their parent to finally share. 

Brushing them off at these moments can be devastating,  No matter how hungry/impatient/tired/all of this I feel, I have learned that they need to feel heard and that everything is going to be ok because they aren’t alone, they are part of your team, and you are there for them whenever they need it.

I read an article a while back (not sure if it was this one?) about how it takes at least six seconds to really register a hug, so I came up with the “Ten Elephant Cuddle” for Eldest (as Youngest was still small and getting prolonged/breastfed hugs a lot, anyway).  It started a few months into Primary one, I think, just as I was hearing more sadness and worries from Eldest at bedtime, and the social competition was starting to bite from his class. No matter how ARRRRGH things had been during the day, we looked forward to it!

Eldest had to put his arms tight around my neck, and I had to put my arms right around his whole body, and I would count with him:

1 el-e-phant

2 el-e-phant…

We would usually go past 10 and he would still be holding me.  When he finally let me go, he’d give me a big sleepy smile and look like a weight had been taken from him.  It was so worth it.

Since the boys had that tummy bug the week before Easter, Youngest has been falling asleep in his own bed more often.  He was eager to do the “Ten Elephant Cuddle” but one evening started to say ‘Crocodile’ instead. 

Well! 

Now the boys choose what animal they want to use to count with, and a few times nonsense words like ‘Helipop’ are used instead!  I find it incredibly sweet that Eldest usually plumps for ‘Elephant’, however.  It really shows he loves our wee ritual – he always gives me a conspiring smile!

I explained our tradition to my mum pal over our café meet on Monday, and she tried it with her daughters that night. Apparently they all enjoyed it, too (‘cupcakes’ featured in theirs, I’m told!). 

It really is a lovely way to bond with the kiddies.  Let me know if you try it and – of course – what they chose to count in!!

 

 

Further reading about the science behind a good hug: here and especially the third comment down on here

 

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2 Responses to “The Ten Elephant Cuddle”

  1. Jane Wright Says:

    Sounds fun

  2. Montaffera Says:

    Makes everyone involved feel better 🙂

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