It’s two o’clock in the morning when I hear a tiny voice by my bed. “Momma, snuggle me up.” I shake myself awake to roll over to look at my three-year-old son whose blue eyes are both sleepy and concerned. Most experts or parenting columns would tell me to march him down the hall and tuck him back firmly into his own bed so he can grow up to be an independent, self-accepting adult. But, instead, I pull him into my bed and into my arms, and as he nestles in under my chin, I realize that I believe in the power of snuggling.
My son and I come from a long line of snugglers. Even before I could walk, I learned to snuggle in my father’s welcoming lap, and now this great bear of a man will frequently grab a family dog or a grandchild to him, passing on this wonderful family legacy. His father, although I never got to experience it, was apparently a champion snuggler who played for the Chicago Bears during the day and went against that type to cuddle his own children at night. And of course he had to learn this ability from somebody. So lying in bed together on this dark night, my son and I are snuggling not only for ourselves, but also for all those who have come before us.
Much has been made of the benefits of touch. Everyone has heard of the studies which show that a simple caress can give someone peace of mind in an anxious situation, enhance his capacity for creativity in another moment or generally strengthen his immune system for life. Science also tells us that touch releases into the brain beta-endorphins, an analgesic or sense of well being which is supposedly stronger than the morphine that hospitals use for pain management.
But, of course on this particular night, I am not thinking about any of this. I am barely awake, and as my son burrows in to a position that is beyond familiar for both us, I realize how lucky I am. Like a lot of other parents, I love my child with a wild type of love I never knew existed four years ago. Now I’m not loony. I have more than this child in my full life. In fact I love lots of things – my partner, my dog, artichokes, a few good books and lots of bad T.V. But my love for my son is filled with such protectiveness and calmness; it gives the notion of love a whole new meaning. At times like this, when the night is cold and the bed is warm and my son’s head is on my shoulder, I am grateful to hear, softly and clearly, this definition as I fall back to sleep. And I believe that I have snuggling to thank for opening my ears.
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