The Power of My Arms

Two of the most important relationships in my life are between me and my children and me and my husband.  As I’m assuming most moms do… I have my moments. Moments where I question everything I am doing. Why won’t my kids behave? Why don’t these behavioral management techniques work? How do I get them to cooperate and listen?!  What happened to the patience I had before kids? When did I turn into a moody biatch with anger management problems?

And maintaining a loving and connected relationship with your husband after a tiring day with the kids? Fuggedaboutit. One more person to worry about is just too much sometimes. Hold that thought.

Rather than worrying about being a weak parent or a pushover, I realize there is strength in being able to let go of my ego and knowing that even though it feels like these little people are controlling my life, I do ultimately have control. What they need from me is to be able to give them control when the stakes aren’t high. And just give them more love and affection because, as I’m learning, a lot of the difficult behavior comes from a need for more connection. They may be tired, hungry, or just frustrated and need extra understanding. And a hug.

Sometimes I feel powerless to their crazy behavior. The screaming, the tantrums… A moment for perspective: my kids are actually pretty good, but like all kids they have their moments. I am still the most important person in their lives, who they look to for comfort and trust implicitly to keep them safe, make them comfortable, and whose kisses have magical healing powers (ok, Papa too, but he’s usually their second pick if I’m around).

And it makes sense. Touch has a big effect on oxytocin levels in your brain and is a natural stress reducer. When they are born, kangaroo care is a popular way to bond, help breastfeeding, and improve preemie development. When they are sick, the only thing that calms them is being held, in my arms. When they are scared or hurt, my arms do the trick. When my son fell out of the kitchen and into the shrubs and my husband got him out, all he wanted were my arms. Studies have found that loving touch helps improve brain development such as neuroplasticity and proprioception. Behaviorally, if I take the time to snuggle and talk with them, they feel heard and makes our interaction less adversarial. Lord knows, I can do with one less power struggle these days.

I’ve recently come across a blog article that suggested having a calm down codeword to remind us how much we love each other and help the other calm down when they get frustrated or angry. We stop what we are doing and take a moment to cuddle and get back on track.  It has worked (sometimes) to help bring us back together, take a breather from the struggle, and remember we are on the same side. We chose “cuddlebug” because it’s cute and reminds us what we could probably use the most in the moment.

As for my husband, studies indicate that couples who are affectionate have higher levels of oxytocin as well. This helps them feel more connected and bonded. But I don’t need studies to tell me that. When I take the time to give my husband more attention, even a quick hug or kiss, or even just holding his hand when we’re out, it makes a world of difference to him.  He puts up with way more of my crap when he feels connected to me! Hell, even a loving text or email helps set the tone for a more pleasant evening.

What a beautiful thing to remember, when I’m at a loss for what to do, or feel powerless in a situation. The answer often lies within myself, within my arms.  Knowing that I have something to offer my children that they will always treasure, always need, and always be comforted by (well, until they are too cool for it).

So from here on out, I resolve to use the power of my arms more to connect with my kids and my husband to make our home life more peaceful and more loving.  I will focus more on giving hugs rather than the next thing on my to-do list.  I will take a moment to greet my husband at the door with a hug and a kiss, or a random hug, massage, or just a simple loving touch at dinner.  Anyone else want to try the same? Has anyone else noticed a difference in connectedness with their loved ones after having taken the time for touch?

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