A dear friend of mine once reminded me that our kids are gifts from God that we get to slowly unwrap. It’s a beautiful image. 

But what if as you start to unwrap this gift, you find a child who is stubborn, resistant, distant, and just plain difficult to connect with? 

What if this gift feels more like a chore…a fixer-upper project…an overwhelming challenge with no instruction manual whatsoever? What if this gift makes you feel inadequate, incapable, and at-a-loss?

You love this gift. You do. But what if you feel stuck somewhere in the middle of being beyond grateful for it and greatly baffled by it? 

What do you do? 

Keep unwrapping.

Trust me. My oldest son sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out…and his too. He’s like a nut I have to crack (without a nutcracker), a giant wave I have to ride (without a surfboard), a mystery I have to solve (without any clues). He’s exhausting.

But he’s my gift, specifically given to me from God. He is mine to unwrap, enjoy, learn from, grow with, and treasure no matter how much he resists, no matter how much he frustrates me. As I take the time to unwrap him further, I have discovered an incredible child…a loving and affectionate human being. How?

  1. Engaging in sports: Whether it’s playing catch, kicking a ball, or shooting some hoops, playing sports with him allows me to be close to him, laugh with him, and have fun with him. Watching sports with him leads to great conversation starters and life lessons. “What was the score of the Cub’s Game last night?” or “That wasn’t being a good sport, was it?” I’ve been able to celebrate great plays with high-fives, disapprove of bad calls with shouts at the TV, and share once in a lifetime moments together—especially when the Cubs won the World Series! 
  2. Beating him up”: My boy is more rough-and-tumble than he is touchy-feely. He’d much rather have a noogie than a hug. Who knew? Wrestling, tickle fighting, and pushing him a little when he walks by—all in a playful and respectful way, of course—goes a long way. And a whack on the back during our pillow fight is as good as a hug to him. He loves it. (I love it too—can you say pent-up aggression?)
  3. Sneak in hugs: If I say, “Come give me a hug,” he will roll his eyes and begrudgingly sloth his way over. But when I say, “Let’s see how tall you are.” He runs right over. I pull him close and put my hand on top of his head. I sneak in a two-second embrace as he quickly turns around to see how high up his head goes.
  4. Building something together: Whether it’s a rocket, sand castle, mud pie, Lego set, bookshelf, puzzle, or even a dream, my son and I can work as a team, side-by-side. There are smiles shared, ideas tossed, and problems solved. 
  5. Serving the community together: My son’s heart softened the day we first served the homeless together. Now, it’s a tradition—our “thing.” Last winter, we even slept in a box on the street together and raised over $1,500 for the homeless. Teaching him that there is a world outside of himself gives him less attitude and more gratitude. He has become more humble and helpful, more gentle and kind.

My “stop-hugging-me” boy is growing into more of a “snuggle-a-little-closer” young man. 

If you have an unhuggable boy, there’s hope. No matter how frustrating he is, don’t give up. Keep praying. Keep being intentional. Keep investing your time and energy into getting to know who he is and who God created him to be.

Keep unwrapping.

Our boys are good gifts from God. There’s no receipt or return policy for these gifts. There is no bumper-to-bumper warranty either. But there is one guarantee: God will help us discover the treasures He has hidden deeply within them.

Keep unwrapping.

We have to keep looking and choose to dig a little deeper to discover ways to connect with their beating hearts and marvel at the beauty and wonder within them. Because underneath that boy who resists our hugs is a boy very much desiring to be touched. Underneath that boy with the negative attitude is a boy who just wants to be loved, cared for, and understood. And it’s our job to at least try. 

So let’s find that nutcracker and crack our way into their tough exteriors through their interests.

Let’s invest in that surfboard and ride the waves with them and just have some fun

Let’s get a clue and take the time to uncover the mystery of who they really are.

Gifts…just waiting to be unwrapped, and in some cases, just waiting to be discovered by you. 

Christine Leeb

Christine Leeb--Speaker and Christian Family Coach specializing in Parenting and Child Discipline.  Founder of Real Life Families--a non-profit organization building better families through free classes and resources.  Mother to three awesome (and exhausting) children from whom she shamefully hides brownies.  Wife to one patient (and polar-opposite) husband with whom she constantly quotes "Friends".  www.RealLifeFamilies.org