A Hug by Any Other Number

Sometimes misunderstood comments are the best. Let me explain.

“Several weeks ago, I mentioned to my granddaughter that everyone needs at least 3 hugs a day and I was missing hug number three. She ran over and said, “here is hug #3.” Later, I realized she didn’t understand I was referring to the number OF hugs. Instead, she thought each hug WAS a different numbered “style.”

So began a new family tradition of dispensing “numbered” hugs. At random times, you might be the recipient of “hug #7” or “hug #43.” While you may not notice the style difference (if any), each hug now has a number assigned to it. Sometimes, she will tell you what number you are about to experience. Other times, I will request a randomly chosen number. Never is there consistency in style or number; it’s all randomly selected and dispensed. Number 7 one day feels just like #31 the next. My hug #49 might include an extra squeeze or kiss. When my husband gets the same #49 immediately after mine, he might get 2 kisses. Today, I got hug “number seventy twenty-three.” I don’t know if that is hug #7023 or a combination hug of #70 and $23; either way, I loved it.

This game we started had continued for a few weeks when my children asked about the origin of this recent activity. We explained how she confused the total number of hugs with a “style” number and the practice now made sense to them.

Family traditions originate from a variety of sources. Some continue for several generations until no one remembers how it got started. You may have read or heard about “cutting off the ends of the ham.” This tale has been recounted in various ways as a quick internet search will prove. In most versions, a new husband sees his wife cut off the ends of the ham before cooking and questions her reasoning. She does it because her mother did the same, as did her grandmother. She assumed it improved the taste somehow. Only by questioning the oldest matriarch was the new bride to discover the original cook cut the ends off so it would fit into the pan. It had nothing to do with cooking at all, yet, the misunderstanding led to generations of cooks preparing their ham the same way.

I don’t know how long our new tradition of numbering hugs will last. I’m grateful and enjoying it now. We all need hugs and grandkid hugs are the best (my prejudiced opinion).

My original comment about needing a minimum of 3 hugs a day fell woefully short according to an article by Christine Comaford entitled “Are You Getting Enough Hugs?“. She references Virginia Satir, a family therapist, as originating the number of hugs we need. Satir notes we need 4 hugs a day just to survive. We need eight hugs for maintenance and 12 hugs to contribute to growth. Mumford’s article addresses the hug shortage exacerbated by Covid mitigations, such as social distancing, and four reasons we need hugs.

To varying degrees, many have returned to family gatherings that were skipped or postponed early in the pandemic. Those first few weeks, when we isolated completely from our grandchildren, were so difficult. Even with family events resuming, I am behind on hugs. This shortage led to my comment about “needing” more than one or two hugs when I’m with my grandchildren. Because my granddaughter misunderstood me, a fun and new family tradition began. As a bonus, there are more hugs dispensed, so it fulfilled my original intent to get at least three hugs a day from grandchildren. In fact, I now get somewhere between 8-12 a day, well beyond survival limits.

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