Snuggling has become one of the most meaningful (and accidental) parenting practices I never meant to adopt.
For me, every day starts and ends with snuggling. It’s perhaps the most intimate and meaningful part of my relationship with my daughters. It’s our time to be together, reflect and reset.
My oldest daughter starts her day by coming into our room, saying hello and reading in bed with us. Sometimes we’re sleeping, sometimes I’m coming back from the gym. But every day like clockwork, she walks in and starts her day. This routine is a holdover from the days when I would nurse her in the earliest hours of the morning and leave her beside me. The sun would come up and there we were together. But now she and I both need that small moment in the morning to connect and head off.
My youngest, on the other hand, could only relax with me beside her. As a baby she fought sleep and only relented when we co-slept for several months. Every day of co-sleeping I worried that I was setting her on a path for poor sleep like she would never be able to sleep alone. Six years later, she’s the deepest sleeper of us all. At the start of every morning, she sleeps so late that I have to wake her. So once I send her sister on her way to get dressed, I slip into her bed and snuggle up beside her and whisper a good morning.
At the end of every day, I do the same thing in reverse order. Snuggle the little one and then snuggle the big one and then call “Good night, love bugs” to both from the landing at the top of the stairs.
On weeknights, we don’t rush the snuggling, but I have to be careful not to slip off the edge of consciousness into sleep, too. I’m up earlier than everyone so by the time I am ushering them off to sleep, I want to follow right behind. The pull of the household chores and the hum of life usually keeps me from heading right to bed.
They need this connection and so do I. It is part of the evening routine and it’s often a remedy for emotional moments throughout the day. Recently, we were snuggled on the couch on weekend afternoon and I told my daughter that I appreciated her closeness, that not all children liked to snuggle their parents. Her response: Who are these kids?
She doesn’t realize yet that being close to your parents isn’t always en vogue. Neither of my girls do. They are not self-conscious, unaware of what’s considered cool or not. And to be frank, we’re not the hippest of people. But we are fun and life at our house is exuberant and colorful and most of the time, we want to be together.
But they’re growing. Their lives are moving at a faster pace. A few early morning commitments have piled up, necessitating alarms and independent self care routines. The pace reminds me we won’t have them forever. They aren’t promised to us indefinitely. That tether holding us together will lengthen, fray, slack.
I wish I could freeze time.
I didn’t realize it but snuggling keeps us connected. Snuggling gives me a little space to slow down the frenetic pace of life, detach from the ticker tape list of things to do, and just be present with them. It’s probably the most present I can be.
I can’t freeze time.
So, on a recent Friday, as the appliances in the kitchen hummed along, washing the dishes and drying the clothes, we lingered doing family things, looking at old pictures, delaying bedtime because there was nothing in the morning tomorrow. Eventually the girls made their way to bed and knowing full well that I would never stay conscious while snuggling beside them, I folded my glasses and tucked them on the nightstand and just relaxed. First with the big one (who had worn on everyone’s last nerve this particular evening) and then the small one (who just rebuked her father’s offer of a good night kiss).
In that moment, I thought about the times I worry about getting it right, the fear that they will look back and think that somehow I never expressed to them how much they mean to me and then I realized that these small moments are the ones they will conjure up one day when they talk about the things we did together.
And on this particular Friday, I did the thing I never do but wish I would. Drag myself away from their incredible little faces and put myself straight to bed.