So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Whenever an article about raising children advises that we hug our teenagers more – I inwardly cringe. For the record, I do think that it’s fantastic advice. Everyone can benefit from a good hug, especially a kid in the midst of all that horrific teenagery stuff like peer pressure, acne, dating, and hormones. I understand the benefit of insisting, “Come over here and hug your mother,” when they’re acting all prickly and avoidant. I can see how a sheepish, “Aw, ma!” is really masking how relieved they feel to be so safe and loved. And yet I rarely hug my teens. Not because I don’t love them, but because I think they might actually hate it.

I know full well the value of human touch. I raised my kids with lots of hugs, kisses, and even group hugs and family dog piles. But now that they arch their backs to get away when I hug them and beg me to stop, I hold back. My instinct is to say, “You’re still my baby so come over here and hug your mom!” I don’t say that though. As much as it feels like it, teenagers are not just little babies in adult bodies. They are young men and women. They are almost adults. They are individual people with their own preferences and comfort levels and personal bubbles. That bubble can get pretty wide with all those teenage hormones and angst and confusion.

I totally get it. If there’s one thing I learned from my teenage years, it’s that there’s nothing worse than feeling like an adult but being treated like a child. When I was a teenager I hated hugging my mom. I later learned that I’m just not a big hugger in general. I do thrive on hugs from my husband and children, but I get real awkward anytime I’m expected to hug anyone else.

I feel a little guilty not giving my teens something I know (whether they know it or not) could benefit them, but I just can’t put them in a situation I wouldn’t want to be in myself. If my kids don’t want to be hugged, they probably aren’t feeling neglected when I don’t hug them anyway. Looking back, I can see how my kids have always valued their space. When one of them was 4 years old we made a “special place” for him in a corner with blankets and books just so he could escape from other people for awhile. Another kid started sleeping through the night when he was only 3 months old. I had been used to rocking him to sleep but one night he was totally inconsolable. Getting frustrated, I decided to lay him down so I could take a breather. He was asleep in five minutes. From that night on he had to be alone in his bed in order to fall asleep.

Regardless of how much space our kids want or need, they still want and need to feel our love for them. So how can we show them if they don’t like being hugged? I’ve made an effort lately to make sure I verbally tell them I love them every day. Occasionally they say it back, usually they don’t. But that doesn’t matter. It matters that they heard it, and that they know it.

One thing I noticed was that my kids tend to feel appreciated and validated when they are listened to. As a frazzled mom of 5, being pulled in so many directions, it’s hard for me to give them my full attention. If I took just a few minutes each day to look my teens in the eye and listen and respond to what they are saying, they would definitely appreciate it. They would probably feel more loved that way than if I gave them hugs all day long.

I still want to hug them. And every so often I’ll ask for a hug and they’ll actually give me one. Once I even got a spontaneous hug initiated by my 16-year-old because he fell on my leg and it felt like he broke it. He felt really bad and so just gave me a big hug. Though I don’t recommend that method of getting hugs, I was appreciative all the same.

For the most part though, I’ll just keep telling them how much I love them and listening to them. At least then I’ll be there when they’re ready for another hug.

Crystal Hill

I've been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development from BYU (yes, that's a real degree). I'm particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I'm not too fat. I'm also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.

Summer Goes by Too Fast

In: Kids
Boy lying on bench at park, color photo

To my oldest, As our summer vacation nears an end and we begin school supply shopping, I think about all the things we didn’t get to do together this summer. I instantly feel mom guilt. All the plans I had made? Only half of them done—if that. RELATED: Remember When Summer Lasted Forever? All the books I was going to read to you at bedtime? Only a couple short ones. All the creative art we would do? Maybe just one time. The fact is, I let time slip away from me. I was too focused and anxiety-ridden about work, my...

Keep Reading

Going on Family Vacation with Young Kids is Work That’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mom with two young kids on airplane

Our routine will be a mess. Our toddler won’t sleep in a new environment. Our baby needs all of the gear. The flight could be a disaster. I went through a mental checklist of reasons why this kind of family vacation would be hard. It was a pretty convincing list if I’m being honest. I considered throwing a pity party dedicated to the concerns I shoulder as a mother. A few days later I felt a wave of conviction wash over me. I was dreading a trip that was meant to be a blessing to our family. Any kind of...

Keep Reading

I Want To Raise Good Sisters

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four girls sitting on a rock in the forest, color photo

My current dilemma: how to teach four little girls how to be good sisters when I have no idea what I’m doing? I was an only child growing up, and a tomboy at that. It was a lonely, quiet childhood. I remember wishing for a sister, but knowing that with my single mom, it wasn’t going to happen. So, the sister thing is a big mystery to me. I’ve noticed (admittedly with some envy) adult sisters together and their inside jokes, shared history, and language known only to each other. I’ve read about sisters in books. The relationships between the four...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Just Love You, I Like You

In: Kids, Motherhood
Young boy standing at bridge, color photo

My growing child, my heart often aches when I look at how big you have gotten. You aren’t a baby anymore, you’re a whole kid. You are your own person, with your own thoughts and feelings. You have your own friendships, and interests.  Parts of me realize you don’t need me the same, but deep down I know you need me all the same. And I’m realizing, that in all of these changes, my love for you is also a like.  RELATED: Being Your Mom is the Greatest Honor of My Life Because now we can connect in a whole...

Keep Reading

Dear Kindergartner, I’ll Always Remember You This Way

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and child touch foreheads

The first magical flickers of your strong heartbeat on a black and white screen— the reassuring evidence I needed to know you were gaining strength for this world. My belly grew, and I proudly went shopping for maternity clothes to cover it. I felt the first dances of your little feet, and it reminded me of butterflies taking flight— the movement of a true miracle. I’ll always remember you this way. The sounds of your first cries—music ringing in my ears. You were real, Earth-side, and wanting only to be loved. The softness of your skin, the way you smelled,...

Keep Reading

Having the Tools To Parent a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder Changes Everything

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child playing with water in tube

My heart leaped into my mouth as Soccer Mom, with her matching foldable chairs and ice-cold Gatorade, glared at me. I wanted to explain how hard I tried to be a good mom, to raise a kind human, but I swallowed the words so I could vomit them at my 5-year-old son on the ride home.   Didn’t he know that pushing another child was unacceptable? Hadn’t I taught him to use gentle hands?   RELATED: To the Special Needs Mom Who Sits Alone Despite implementing the parenting books that promised me a new kid by the week’s end, I often wondered...

Keep Reading

There’s No Instruction Manual for These Middle Years

In: Kids
Little girl smiling on porch

As a preschool teacher and a mom, I’ve always felt pretty confident in my parenting from ages birth to 5 years old.  I by no means am perfect, and I silently rejoiced the day my kids could pour their own cereal and turn on Netflix for themselves while I caught some extra sleep. Even though that’s probably not a proud mama moment to celebrate, it’s just the reality of parenting.  We both celebrate and mourn independence as our children need us less. And let’s be honest, oftentimes independence makes our daily lives easier. Yet it is bittersweet.  It feels like...

Keep Reading

I’m Halfway Through Raising Little Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two girls smiling outside

Today I stayed in my car a few minutes more than usual as my kids hopped out onto the hot driveway and ran inside. The cold air conditioning felt amazing after a long day at the local water park; so did the silence. Then it felt odd, so I turned on the radio. The song that started playing hit my soul: “Woah, we’re halfway there/Woah, livin’ on a prayer.” I’m always living on a prayer, but I also noticed we are halfway there. RELATED: Growing Up, You First Then Me Halfway through the year, more than halfway through summer, and...

Keep Reading

Kindergarten is the Start of Letting You Go

In: Kids, Motherhood

We’re physically ready for kindergarten. We’ve got the backpack, the school supplies, the school clothes, and the new shoes. We’ve talked about it all summer. We’ve practiced the skills he will need, and how to open everything inside of a cold lunch box. We’ve talked positively about it and imagined all the friends he will meet and the places he will go, and how kind and caring the teacher will be. We’re physically ready for kindergarten. But here’s a little secret . . . My heart? My heart can’t fully be ready for him to go to kindergarten. I know...

Keep Reading

The Truth about Puddle Jumpers and Toddler Drowning, From a Grieving Mom

In: Kids
Little boy in Puddle Jumper on waterslide

The very last video I have of my 3-year-old son, Levi, is of him bobbing up and down in a Puddle Jumper.  His little legs kicking underwater, his eyes the spitting image of his daddy, and his older sisters, his happy grin, and his little voice saying “Cheese!” This time-stamped video, counting down the precious minutes we had left until he would end up in this very same pool, less than two hours later.  But this time, it was without the Puddle Jumper. I understand the sense of panic building inside you to avoid my story or read it just...

Keep Reading