say it with your . . . mouth?

My children are super emotive with their bodies. They are very touchy-feely. They need to have their bodies close to yours to feel connected. They crave skin to skin contact, with everyone. It’s both endearing and annoying. It led to my son’s teachers thinking he needed therapy. It makes me want to scream sometimes. I sometime do say, “Please stop touching me.”

My son has a habit of leaning his whole body weight on you to signal that either he’s tired or he loves you. I have to say, “Big A, stand on your own feet.” My daughter has a habit of draping herself over my arms as I type on the computer, wanting attention but killing my wrists as I try to continue on. I have to say, “Little A, get up right now.” We have two couches in our small living room, hoping it would encourage the four of us to spread out. But no; they insist on sitting right next to us, no inches in between, if not on top of us. Even right now, as I write this post, the two of them are on one couch, right beside another, brown arm to brown arm. Vast amounts of empty space surround them, but they’d rather be right next to each other. My husband and I are like jungle gyms, especially to Little A, who not only craves attention but craves gymnastics type physical activity at all times.

I don’t really want to discourage this behavior because it’s not rambunctious or disrespectful. Yeah, sometimes it get annoying, but it’s really the culture of my family, as my mom says. I’m not sure if they are like this because it’s their nature, or because my husband and I are so affectionate with each other at home that they just pick up on this really intimate vibe. That’s what it is – it’s intimate, things you do when you are very comfortable with another person. I do know, however, that other people are unnerved by their behavior; I’ve watched other children get perturbed when Big A uses his body to convey an emotion, even if it’s happiness, when words would have sufficed. I think the body leaning thing contributed a lot to the teacher’s belief that Big A lacked a sense of awareness of his body in space. And Little A, even at three, is a little obsessed with small scratches and things on her body, like she’s hyper-aware of it. She, more than Big A, thrives on bodily affection and touch and I wonder how she’ll adapt when in elementary school teachers don’t give that anymore, or see that need as a sign of immaturity, even though it’s not.

What I’ve been trying to do is adopt a pragmatic approach with them. I basically say, when we’re engaged in this type of behavior, is that while mama and daddy might really like being this close, other people may not. Your friends would really like it more if you used your words instead of your body. The teachers don’t like it when you lean up against them because you are heavy, and not a little boy anymore. You can have some room between you and your friend at circle time, and that’s still sitting next to them. That person does not want your arm to touch their arm because that is their body.

I don’t want my babies to stop touching me, because I know this time won’t last forever. But they have to learn to respect other people’s boundaries. And so instead of saying it with their chest, they need to say it with their mouths.

One thought on “say it with your . . . mouth?

  1. I identify with this post 100%!! My sons are 7 and 9 and, therefore, pretty heavy (although their are super skinny and not very tall) and they are ALWAYS leaning on me, trying to hang on to my arms with all their body weight and stuff — especially if we’re in public and I’m talking to someone they’re not very close or comfortable with. It drives me NUTS!

    We are also SUPER affectionate and touchy-feely with one another at home, especially I with them, hugging, covering them with kisses, holding them in my lap. So I totally agree with you that while all this physical affection is nice, they need to learn about boundaries — they already know about those with other people (except Linton when he’s angry, he gets WAY too close to people’s faces and leans towards them), but with me not so much.

    I have really bad ADHD (very recently self-diagnosed) and I feel especially irritated when they touch me or lean on me when I’m trying to concentrate on anything (such as typing, talking on the phone or with someone else). I push them away quite rudely. My husband now tries to warn the kids so they can try to build some boundaries when I’m trying to do something else, but it’s hard. And I feel bad because I just cannot NOT feel irritated an upset… it’s a physical reaction to their physical interference in my very tenuous attention.

    So… yeah, I totally get what you’re saying.


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