Snuggle together as long as possible.
These six words recently won the "Sweetest" section in The New York Times Motherlode competition for The Best Parenting Advice In Six Words.
It's awesome parenting advice, but it is advice I don't think is given enough.
Though you will read countless parenting books and listen to exhaustive expert talks, ask questions of the nurse when you hand over your blue book and discuss the topic of child rearing with every unknown on the internet, it's easy to miss the simple messages -- the ones that tell you to just snuggle.
So here's some advice of my own:
- Snuggle your children when they fall asleep. Whatever anyone tells you, they will still learn to sleep by themselves. There is nothing like having someone who loves you there when you drift into dreamland.
- Snuggle them when they make mistakes so they learn it's only human to err.
- Snuggle them when they come home from school, regardless of whether they've had a good day or a bad day.
- Snuggle them when you watch TV together.
- Snuggle them when they fall and hurt themselves. You're not just wiping away the tears, you're showing them how love and care will get them through even the painful bits.
- Snuggle them while you are waiting in a queue, for love is a true respite from boredom.
- Snuggle them when they are sad and they need a soft, warm body to crawl into. Show them how human love and tenderness can heal non-physical wounds.
- Snuggle them after they win or lose at sport and teach them how proud you are of their efforts.
- Snuggle them when they come home from a party and start to eat all the snacks in the house.
- (Carefully) snuggle them when they are hormonal and angry. Show them that you are trying to understand.
- Snuggle them for no good reason at all.
It's often only when the snuggle is less forthcoming that you realise how important it has been. And sometimes you'll find you need it more than they do.
One day you will look back and see they learned to sleep and eat, read and write, and all their teeth came through. And you will realise that all those worries about swaddling and dummies and after school sport and the right lunch box choices mean very little compared to the fact that they learned they are loved and how to show love in return.
You'll never regret a snuggle. But you might regret the times you didn't.