I got hugged tonight. Twice. Once by a parent, once by a student.
It's not that this is a bad thing, per se. It was just....surprising.
I was at a basketball game - not for my school, but three of my kids are on the team and they'd invited me, so I went. I got there a little late so I sat by myself, but afterward, I went up to the mom of the kid who'd invited me. (Same mom, by the way, who was so mad at me earlier this year - we've come a long way since then.) I said hey, and she said hey and reached out and hugged me. And....I don't know, I was surprised but it seems rude to back away from a hug and she had already initiated it so I hugged her back. And then when her son came over, he grinned, "Oh! You came! Thanks!" and as he was speaking, reached up and hugged me. Again, I hugged back. What else could I do?
I generally don't hug kids. If someone's really upset about something and talking to me about it, I'll hug them, but I don't initiate it unless it's something like that. I'm more likely to do it with girls than boys, just because of...well, you know why, and no matter who I'm hugging, I usually make it a side hug, kind of an arm-around-the-shoulders-quick-squeeze-and-release kind of thing. Just for safety. Just to be appropriate.
The thing about not hugging, though, is that it sucks. I'm a hugger. Always have been. Greet my friends that way, say goodbye that way, give hugs for congratulations and excitement, hugs to console or empathize....it's a big part of how I interact with the world. But I can't with my kids because of the potential creepazoid factor.
That annoys me. Why should a few creepy weirdos who can't behave appropriately with students ruin things for everyone else? Physical contact is a good, healthy thing, and people need it - there's plenty of research that supports that. Virginia Satir even said, "We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth." Twelve! And now schools are banning hugging entirely!
I get the potential for problems, I really do. I had a colleague my first year who made me very uncomfortable because of his lack of understanding of personal space (both with his peers and with his students), and I have a friend who works in a school that had a teacher/student affair crisis. Both of those are terrible things, and no kid should ever, ever, ever have to go through that. But I just think that so many kids and teachers could benefit from a little more contact.
In general, I try to pat my kids on the shoulder or back, give high fives or fist bumps, or place a hand on an arm if I'm going to initiate physical contact. That's what I've done and that's what I'll stick with. I wish, though, that it could be different.
(Image credit to Julie McLeod)