When Only A Hundred Hugs and a Kisses Will Do

My children have alwalys been my greatest teachers.  While we adults tend to hide our deepest desires for love and affection, children teach us to to be real - to talk about our fears and find solutions in a big kiss and hug  . . . and sometimes lots of kisses and hugs.

For example, when my son John started kindergarten I took him to his new school several times before the first day and let him try out the playground, meet his teacher and get familiar with the classroom. He knew where to hang his backpack and where to find the boy’s restroom. I followed John’s bus on the first day and went inside with him for a few moments to participate in a few fun activities the teacher had wisely planned. But when all the parents had to go, the look on John’s face was a maternal heartbreaker. When it came time for John to go to school the next day, he was so nervous he paced in circles around me on the kicthen floor while I made his lunch.

“What’s the matter, John?” I asked. “Worried about going to school today?”

“Yes,” he answered with his eyebrows lowered.

“What are you worried about John?” I asked.

John tried to hold back tears by rubbing his eyes with his fists before he blurted, “Mostly Mom – I’m just missing you.”

“Would it help if I kissed your hand? Then every time you starting missing me you could put your hand on your cheek and I’d be there kissing you?”

John thought for a long while, and then seriously replied, “No. That won’t work.”

So I tried again, “Remember when your sister Aubrey had to leave to go to school in Pennsylvania and she was a little scared and sad but she went anyway?” I asked. John nodded. “Remember when Aubrey said that when she gets lonely or sad, she thinks about something happy? What if I put a sucker in your backpack and every time you feel lonely or sad, you start thinking about that sucker?”

John thought for along while then seriously answered, “I don’t know. I’m not sure that will help, Mom.”

“What if I give you a hundred hugs and kisses before you go? Do you think that would work?” I asked again.

John didn’t have to think. He responded immediately, “Yes. That would definitely help, Mom.”

I found a sucker and tucked it away in a secret pocket of his backpack and then we started the hugging and kissing. John carefully counted until we reached a hundred.

The steps on a school bus are like scaling Mount Everest to a small five-year-old. Yet when the time came, John hesitantly braved the heights and found his seat on the bus without me. I waved and blew him kisses while he drove away.

Because John was my ninth child to start school, I knew how precious and fleeting childhood is. I also knew how much courage it takes to be a child, to welcome a child into your life and then let that child go.

I want to be like my children when I grow up. Children can teach us so much more than we can teach them. I believe we will find our way back to God if we allow children to be our guides.