The Run-and-Hug Game

Michael with dog
Obviously, we’re making progress at getting him to tolerate dogs. As long as Julianna doesn’t see them first and start screaming.

There comes a day in the life of every toddler when the great concept of “I want” butts up against the concepts “I have three siblings” and “I can scream really loudly.”

On that day, life gets a whole lot less pleasant for the mommy of the house. Because it used to be that when the non-verbal child cried, he or she was the victim. Now there’s no telling.

There’s a reason small children are so cute. Michael kept me up all night a few days ago. All night. Screamed. Wet the bed. Came downstairs looking for me after I’d retreated to the couch from insomnia. I was in tears at 2 a.m. I dragged myself to Jazzercise at 5:45 anyway, and when I came home Michael came tearing down the stairs, warbling and squealing “Ma-ma! Ma-ma!” I gave him The Look. I had no intention of giving in to any amount of cuteness. Mr. Mayhem was on my you-know-what list. And yet I found myself smiling and getting all warm and fuzzy anyway.

You know what’s nice, though? It goes both directions. One thing I’ve learned from my first three children is that it’s better to get compliance through words and postures that invite rather than those that threaten. “Get up here right now! It’s time to go to bed” doesn’t work as well as “Would you like a bedtime story? C’mere! Let’s read a book!”

Of course, eventually they get too savvy for that particular example to work, but you get the idea.

I’ve been very conscious of the moments with Michael in a way I haven’t been since Alex was very small. Alex was a gift so long in coming, I spent his entire babyhood in wonder, living in the moment. Once the other kids started coming, all that changed. But now I’m there again, or at least attempting it. Life is a lot busier now, both professionally and as a mother. I don’t want to waste any time fighting with him if I can get cooperation through hugs and cuddles and games.

Somewhere along the line, we developed a good one. I sit down on the floor, throw my arms out wide, smile and say, “C’mere, you!” And he giggles and giggles, and backs up three steps so he can get a good running start to tackle me.

Run and hug

One day, he was mad about something. Sulking because he didn’t get his way. I assumed the position, and he turned his back on me. Lip stuck out. Looking at the floor. “Michael,” I said in my sweetest voice. “Miiiiiiiii-chael.” He wouldn’t look at me. I started making silly noises. “Miiiiiiii-chael!”

I whispered to the friend sitting beside me, “He doesn’t want to look at me because he can’t resist this game.” Raised my voice again. “Miiiiiii-chael! Boo-boo!”

He stole a glance. Tried to look away again and discovered he couldn’t. Fought the smile and lost. Swiveled, his entire face lighting up, and ran giggling to me.

Crisis averted.

It’s my favorite thing, the run-and-hug game. I don’t know what I’ll do when he gets too big for it, along with being chewed on and tickled and have raspberries blown on his belly. Go into mourning, probably.

Oh, yes: Michael learned to kiss this week. Heaven. Heaven, Heaven.

Did I mention Heaven?