Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Celebrating Breakthroughs

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a hug.  As a matter of fact, it is usually a familiar and welcomed form of greeting or a warm show of affection, depending on the context.  However, children have a difficult time gathering context in just about any situation - their trusting nature and penchant for literal interpretation put their parents into the difficult situation of having to teach boundaries and to teach the children the difference between the types of hugs they can give and to whom.  It's so hard to take the kind actions of an innocent child and have to burst their bubble, so to speak, by telling them it's wrong sometimes.  When is it wrong?  When is it right?  How can they learn to read other people, understand stranger danger, differentiate between friends and family and aquaintances?

Samantha's empathic nature has made her a natural born hugger.  The affection she feels for all people betrays her innocence in the ways of the world.  She is just 6 years old, after all.  But it's been difficult for us, as her parents, to teach this valuable lesson of appropriateness.  For a long time she would hug pretty much anyone we passed on the street, whether we stopped to talk to them or not.  (Can we say awkward?)  So many times we gently, carefully, explained that she can only hug Mommy, Daddy, Gramma, Grampa, Memom and Pops, and then only anyone else we said it was okay to hug.  And while she'd nod in understanding, saying yes, she understood, that agreement lasted only until the next stranger walked by. 

Sammi's school aide, Mrs. D., has been working with us to help curb Samantha's indiscriminate hugging.  It's so hard, though, as everyone is always cooing over her at school, saying how cute she is, asking for hugs themselves as they know she will likely reciprocate.  But Mrs. D. has been keeping the ever-watchful eye, stopping either Samantha or the other teachers and administrators before it happens, educating the others and determined to create an alternate solution.  The fist-bump-fireworks-thingy (I have no idea what to call it) seems to work pretty well, and Sammi gets a giggle from it every time. 

The fruit of all of our efforts became evident last weekend, as we stopped for the night in North Carolina on our way back from the beach in Georgia.  Samantha, walking with the two of us through a mall department store, stopped where an old man was sitting on a chair talking to a store employee.  She gave them her customarily cheery greeting, breaking the focused conversation they were having and bringing big smiles to their faces (seriously, this kid makes everyone smile!).  She then put her hand out to the gentleman and said, "Shake hands?"  And shake they did, with an exchange of "It's nice to meet you!"

Steve and I looked at each other, incredulous.  How easy was that??  How impressed we were by her confidence, her composure, her restraint!  And we praised her up and down for giving such a perfect greeting to strangers, for being such a big girl.  And she grinned ear to ear, as pleased with herself as we were with her actions.

And it was not an isolated incident.  She repeated the act several other times over the next 2 days, indicating a true breakthrough in her development and maturity. 

But I still demand my hugs, thrilled that I'm on the top of the good-hugger's list.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

14 comments:

Gillian Marchenko said...

Go Sammi! High fives and handshakes is our mantra over here, too. :)

Lisa said...

That is great!

Anna Theurer said...

Way to go, Sammi! She is a picture of politeness--"It's nice to meet you!".

Becky said...

Love this post because so get what you are talking about. Yeah for Sammi. I like your words...the top huggers list. We have to prompt Kristen everytime we go to church to shake hands, no hugs. At school, the teacher also help us with the no hug policy. Boundaries...so hard to teach especially to a child who just sees so much good in this world and wants to share her love with everyone...

Rochelle said...

LOVE this post! Way to go Sammi. So thrilled you have a staff person who gets it and is helping with that skill.

teal915 said...

That's great. I remember you saying you had been working on that. Do you think it would have helped to start working on it earlier? Should,I,start encouraging high fives and fist bumps instead of hugs now? Kamdyn likes to do those anyway, but she also reaches out to give people, complete strangers a hug. Most people don't know what she's trying to do, and I don't tell them.

Wren said...

Way to go Sammi! Teaching boundaries is one of the most difficult things parents go through.

The Holt's said...

Yay Sammi!! This put a huge smile on my face. Although Izzy is only a year, she likes to make sure that everyone is paying attention to her. I wonder if she will be a hugger.

Becca said...

Good question, Tricia - "Do you think it would have helped to start working on it earlier?" I am not sure. Maybe. But it's so hard for *us* to do that, since babies and small children are just so darn huggable! But most children outgrow it pretty quickly, but ours seem to hang on to it so much longer, and it's so much harder to "un-teach" it. Explaining *why* they can't do something that's gotten them such a positive reaction for so long is really, really hard. So, with thinking on it a bit further, yes, it may be a better idea to start sooner than later.

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Sammie! I'm picturing a bright future for you in every way.

Jenny said...

I always found this hard to do...With my Nephew who has Aspergers we had to teach him boundaries because he always wanted to climb all over and hug and kiss everyone...At first I thought we were being mean by telling him not to be so affectionate, that it was cruel to change his beautiful spirit that happened to be so loving and free...BUT...The older he got the more I began to realize that teaching him boundaries was very important...Teaching him about others personal space was important too...It was hard, but I am glad we did it.

Sounds like you guys did an awesome job with Sammi :)

Anna said...

What a great post. When we arrived home with Grace two years ago she was indiscriminate with affection and it was hard for me. Our relationship was so new that I took it personally. Cocooning and bonding has been good for all of us. It's hard that now people want hugs and she screams or roars "NO!" I remember being reprimanded by others that kids with DS were Ike that , were so loving and hugged everyone, but it didn't change the Fact that as her mother I felt we needed to set boundaries. Thank you for addressing this. Hugs. ( ha ha!)

Meriah said...

Super, super awesome!
YAY!!!!!

Renee said...

That's awesome! I'm finding it hard to teach my kids manners and I would be thrilled with handshakes and "nice to meet you."

Our new next door neighbor is 10 and he greeted Wesley with a handshake. When I said "I am Renee.". The new boy said, "hi Mrs. Renee". I was so impressed!