We were sitting in church as a family like we do every Sunday. My wife and four kids all sat in the pew looking forward to listening to our priest. Then, my six-year-old son sat on my lap and my eyes began to water.
My son is my cuddle bug. My oldest daughter, who is 8, used to be, but that died off once we had twins, four years ago. And yet, when my son sat on my lap during church, it was my eldest daughter who actually made my eyes water.
The stark reality of parenting finally set in and it was an incredibly painful reality I felt– in all places… church.
I could feel the warmth from my son radiate through me as he squeezed himself tighter and tighter into my arms. With every wiggle he made, I embraced him that much more. He looked up into my eyes with the brightest smile. I looked down into his and smiled back. A great father-son moment.
I turned and looked at my wife who had both our twin daughters tucked under her arms. My eyes moved down and there was my oldest daughter, alone with no one to cuddle. She was merely absorbing the words from the priest. That was the sight that hurt.
With my son on my lap, I reached out my left arm and tapped my daughter on the shoulder signaling her to slide in close. She slid her body under my left arm and her big dark brown eyes looked into mine and we both smiled at one another.
The priest continued with his homily and I have not a clue what it was even about. The entire time he spoke, all I could do was think about my daughter and how grateful I am having her in my life—how grateful I am having my entire family.
Maybe it was due to being Memorial Day Weekend. Maybe it truly was that fatherly moment of reminiscing about how quickly the children are growing. Maybe…
For whatever reason, my emotions were incredibly high that Sunday while sitting in church with my family. It was a cross between being incredibly depressing conflicted with incredible joy, knowing who was by me in that pew.
But most of all, it was a wake-up call.
I realized how quickly my children are growing and realized there will be a point in their lives that they will no longer wish to snuggle up against me. And that stung.
Few realize that there are actual health benefits behind one of our greatest of senses—touch.
One specific study demonstrates that the science of touch serves as our primary language of compassion and the primary spread of compassion. A plethora of studies demonstrates when touch lacks on infants and toddlers, they often possess developmental and societal issues. Multiple studies show how touch helps the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and helps protect against respiratory infections.
Unfortunately, we live in a society in which we must be extremely careful when it comes to “touch.” With the #MeToo Movement, sexual predators, and plenty of men (Thanks Joe Biden) who appear to be “creepers,” more and more have distanced themselves from arguably one of the healthiest activities we can engage in multiple times a day–touch.
We as a society, especially here inside the United States, have become extremists in nature meaning, we live in an all-or-nothing space. We lack balance. We lack an understanding that the world, in general, is not “after you” or trying to “take advantage,” or “get in the sack” with you.
As a man, as a father… no, as a daddy, this is disheartening and things need to change.
We, especially us men, need to stand up and earn some trust. We must learn that we can hug, we can touch, we can cuddle and snuggle. And we can do these things without being a “creeper” or a “predator.” We can do these things where others are comfortable and realize what we are doing is purely harmless and in fact, actually healthy full of love and compassion.
Dads, today, pull your children deep into your arms and hold them not for a second or two but rather three or four, minutes if you will. Have them snuggle up against you on your favorite chair and watch Paw Patrol or The Kids Baking Championships or Ninja Warrior Junior or whatever favorite show your children may have.
Go outside and play catch, teach your child how to hit a baseball or golf ball, help them cast that first line into a pond and watch them reel in their first fish. Simply put, engage with your children and when you see them smile for that short-term accomplishment, embrace them in your arms and allow them to feel your love through a simple hug of compassion.
Don’t allow your children to grow old without that last snuggle and pray every night that when you one day sit on your death bed, your children will be by your side sliding themselves next to you so you realize you are not leaving this earth alone. They may be adults come that time, but they will forever be your babies.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on June 14, 2019.
Kerry Patton is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force turned actor, producer, director, writer, and stunt performer.