Front Hugs

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Part of the magic in having children and pets is the fact that they love you so much.

That unconditional love is truly magical, and in its reciprocation, all things are made well.

When I got home from Portland on Sunday night, Jake was the first to meet me at the door. He ran out to see me and gave me a front hug. An actual, chest to chest, one arm kind of wrapped around me hug.

These are rare.

Usually, when I ask for a hug, he’ll turn his back to me completely. My role is to wrap my arms around him and squeeze. If I don’t fulfill my part, he will sometimes grab for my arms and help me out. He likes my arms like a seat belt, with at least one of his on the outside. Getting a front hug is a pretty amazing thing.

It’s nearly as rare as the kiss with actual puckering of the lips and a “muah” sound. These are like blue lobsters – super rare. “Give me a kiss” almost always results in Jake offering up a safely kissable body part – usually his forehead. If you can goad him into kissing you on the lips, it’s always your lips that do the kissing.

I was reminded of this this morning when my friend Hope returned the DVD I had lent her, “Making Our Way: Autism.” It’s the documentary we “starred” in back in 2011, which was produced by MPBN in partnership with the Autism Society of Maine.

In the trailer, they feature a clip of a home movie where I ask Jake to say, “I love you, Daddy.” He, of course, does not. He looks at me and sort of exhales. I submitted it because it showcased his limited language/conversation, but the way they slow down the video really kicks me in the feels.  The first 30 seconds ought to do it.


It’s the lack of reciprocation that hurts. I’m not saying that Jake doesn’t love me, but it kind of sucks that he can’t express it in societally-approved ways.

A kiss; a hug; an “I love you.” Don’t ever take these things for granted when you are blessed to have them.

Early in our career as autism parents, Beth and I were discussing what we’d do if Jake was never able to love us back. Our only answer was to keep on loving the crap out of the kid and get over it. What choice do we have? I think that’s part of the trouble with developing a relationship with Jake. He’s a lousy friend. He’s a taker, and he doesn’t give much; and when he does, it’s in small ways that people don’t recognize.

Sometimes it’s the way he allows himself to be touched; or sits close enough to touch you. These things are huge in Jake-world. You’ll never get a spontaneous “I love you.” I’m not sure I’ve ever got one, and I’ve known the kid his whole life.

So, when a front hug comes alone – you hold on tight, breathe in the sweet smell of it, and NEVER be the first to let go.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bigcalfguy.com/front-hugs/

3 comments

    • Mom Miner on October 9, 2014 at 9:33 am
    • Reply

    Ah, Ryan.

    Don’t know how I missed this post. Yours are always the first I read. And then read again.
    This one kicked me ‘in the feels’ big time.

    But Jake’s eyes–look again and see the trust and the joy as he comes to you. Typical impatience as you wipe the dirt from his face. And then the disconnect because he can’t say the words you long to hear.
    Look again, Ryan, and see his love for you.

    All of which you’re aware of, I’m sure.
    I love you, Son #3.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I love you, too. Those early years were so trying. I think we’ve all come a long way since then, but it’s good to be reminded with videos and pictures like that. It’s too easy to forget the progress you’ve made when you focus on the distance still left to be covered, you know?

    • Carol Page on September 19, 2014 at 10:10 am
    • Reply

    So precious and as I read this with tears in my eyes. Jake is such a special little boy and so are you and Beth. I love these beautiful stories. I am so touched by all of them. May God bless you!

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