One of my favorite parts of being Amma is all the snuggles I get. At almost 4 years of age, Partha veers from running madly around the house with no time for hugs, to being super engrossed in his puzzle/coloring (‘I’m too busy’), to crying over a broken crayon and bawling ‘Amma I’m so sad. I need a hug.’
We were snuggling and reading a book this morning when I got thinking about how so much of parenting in the initial years is all about the sensation of touch. I recall countless hours spent watching my son’s sweet face during those seemingly endless nursing sessions. Using every opportunity to kiss a little hand or foot. Partha would often use his tiny hand to hug my breast as if to say ‘don’t disturb me and don’t take this away’. The warm breath of my baby boy as he nuzzled against my neck to fall asleep.
When Partha was a couple of months old, I took him to Chennai to meet our family. It was especially important to me that he meet his great grandmothers. We traveled back alone to Massachusetts and I was too scared to take my eyes off my 4 months old or put him down for even a second in a busy airport. Thank God for baby carriers – he was literally strapped to me for 22 hours.
When he was about a year old he had a bout of laryngitis. He had a fever and a sore throat for a week and refused to get off my hip. Hard to guess who was more tired – he or I 🙂 I have exhausted memories of those days – the warm weight of my baby lying on me and nursing literally all day and night.
As Partha got older, some of this changed. Now my days are filled with an almost 4 year old slipping his hand into mine saying ‘Amma let’s go play. Amma let’s go for a walk’. The pleasurable weight of his body slumped against mine as we read a book. The sticky kisses from my big boy stuffing his face with strawberries. Bracing myself as my son barrels into my body seeking comfort when he’s upset.
So much of the early years of parenting is so physical. Carrying our children everywhere, using our bodies to nurse and soothe them, cleaning pee that goes everywhere, wiping tiny bums that somehow hold massive amounts of poop. Propping our sleep deprived bodies against a pillow/cushion all night to hold up a child with a stuffy nose.
Of course every second person I talk to now tells me how all this will change as my baby boy becomes an independent teenager. Much of it probably will. But thinking back to my own childhood reminds me of how much the sensation of touch continued to be a source of comfort well into my teen years and to the present day. My parents and the immediate circle of family around me relied on touch to show love and comfort. Hugs and kisses were a regular part of our lives, regardless of whether we were little kids or teenagers. I remember snuggling into bed and napping with Thatha on his shoulder as a 24 year old. I remember countless head massages and ‘reiki’ treatment by Sachu Patti as I lay on her lap even as a new mother. The strong grip of Vichu Patti’s hands as she held onto my hand and narrated stories. Until today, the most comforting sensations are the warmth of my mother’s hand soothing my forehead and the feeling of climbing into my father’s arms.
Partha may not always be the snuggle bunny that he is now. Regardless, hugs, kisses and the warmth of touch will always be a part of our parenting. And hopefully the memories of countless snuggles will stay with him for a lifetime and at some point in the not-so-distant future, I will snuggle in my grown son’s arms for a hug 🙂