Monday, April 16, 2007

The Power of a Hug

I have two children, a boy (5) and a girl (4). My son is very tender hearted and friendly. He loves to play with friends and always seems to get along well with all manner of personality types. My daughter is very different from her brother. She has Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a result she has a difficult time socially. She can not talk yet and has meltdowns regularly. She does have her shining moments though. For example, one thing she did with delight was give her brother a hug and a kiss goodnight. This also pleased her brother as his primary love languages are words and touch. Since his sister cannot talk he knows this is the only way she can tell him that she loves him.

Well, a couple of months ago his sister started to go into a bit of regression. She stopped enjoying the bedtime routine and began to fight giving her brother hugs and kisses. We would bring her over to her brother for hugs and kisses and she would pitch a huge fit; kicking, screaming and fighting every minute of it. This went on up until a week ago. It began to take its toll on my son. I did not notice it before but I was about to find out. On this particular night something was going to happen that would impact my son, I would dare say, for the rest of his life. God was also going to teach me an awesome lesson on the power of unconditional love.

This particular night my son said to me, "Dad, I don't think Delaney loves me any more because every time I try to give her a kiss and a hug she always kicks me and pushes me away."

I tried to reassure and comfort him by letting him know that Delaney loved him and even though she did not seem to like being hugged and kissed it was important that we continued to demonstrate to her that we loved her no matter what. So I asked him to come and try and give her hugs and kisses. I was sitting on the floor with Delaney on my lap and as Aidan got close she started fighting and whining. I told Aidan to keep coming and held on to his sister while he put his arms around her and kissed her goodnight.

He sat back and just looked at her feeling utterly rejected and unwanted. It was evidenced by the look on his face. He was hurt deeply. This rejection by his sister confirmed his feeling unloved and unwanted by her. Then something amazing happened. Delaney started fighting for me to let go of her arms, so I did. When I did she leaned over to her brother, stretched out both her arms and wrapped them around him. He began to do the same and gave her a quick pat thinking she was going to tear away from him any second. But instead she held on. She continued to do so for several long seconds. Aidan began to pull back thinking she was done but instead she tightened her grip. Then, realizing she was not going to let him go, Aidan began to squeeze his sister in a big, long over due hug.

I sat there stunned as Delaney held on to her brother. I knew this was a moment that was going to impact my son. I watched his face warm up and his countenance change from feeling rejection to feeling that he was loved and accepted. Finally they let go of each other.

"See Aidan" I said, "Delaney does love you."

Those words sank in fast and began to completely overwhelm my son. He just sat there crying for ten minutes saying, "Laney loves me! She really loves me!" Again and again he would say it crying as loud as I have ever heard him.

"I am so happy that Laney loves me Daddy but why am I crying?" he asked.

I scooped him up and carried him off to bed. I told him that sometimes when our heart is full of happiness it spills out in tears. I let him know that his sister hugging him was a good thing to cry and be happy about. So he cried. He cried for a long time...and I just held him.

So many things went through my mind. I knew this was a life shaping moment for him. I wanted to say something that would help shape his life for the good. I wanted to tell him he was crying because at the core of our being we all want to be loved like that. I wanted to tell him that when we love someone from the deep places of our heart and soul we want to know we are loved in return from those same places. But I did not know how to say those things in a way that a five year old could understand them. "God help me!!" I prayed. "How do I say this to my son in a way he will understand it?"

Then I realized...Delaney's hug already did.

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

OK Matt, I'm sitting in bed bawling. If your posts are going to be this heart warming all the time, I won't be able to read them. Can't have puffy eyes in the the morning.

Seriously, what a wonderful story and a proof that God acts through all people. Even those with communication problems.