My normal daycare dropoff and pickup routine is pretty standard. I crouch down, and give a goodbye hug and kiss (or a hello hug, and kiss as the case may be), do some soft 1-1 conversation with Potamus at his eye level, and then I either head on out to work, or we head on out together. After six months of him being in his toddler classroom, the students are beginning to recognize me, and seem to know our little routine (which differs drastically from the routine I see other parents engage in).
For the most part the children enter into my zone of proximity without it causing my discomfort. There’s ones little blonde boy, clearly the oldest of the group, who always says “potamus’ mommy, potamus mommy'” while trying to both acknowledge me and get potamus’ attention so that he can go home with me. Sometimes the kids crowd close as I give Potamus his hello hug at daycare pickup, but none of them actually…touch me.
In the past two months, though, I have had a few interactions with this one little girl that have left me feeling uncomfortable and unsure of how to react. She touches me. And I don’t mean like the blonde boy, who patted me once and said “Potamus’ mommy,’ but I mean she hugs me. These kids are between 2-3, so it’s at that huggable age, I guess, but I’m left with this gut feeling that something seems…off?
Today I came in and this little girl ran over to me. Potamus saw me and was making his way over, and when I crouched down with my arms open to give him a hug, she pressed herself into me. Flung is more like it. While she didn’t quite give me a full hug because I was turned to the side to hug Potamus, I could feel her little belly up against me. And then she lifted her shirt. And then she said “owls, owls,” pointing to the owls on her shirt.
Maybe it’s my overly sensitive to touch teacher training, or my experience as a crisis social worker, but I viscerally react to this little girl throwing herself at me. Part of me is sad that she’s seeking out attention from me, and part of me feels worried because she’s the only one. All the other kids seem to have the same level of wariness that Potamus has to strangers, and while they certainly seem to resonate with my ability to get down on their level, they don’t interact to such an extreme cling way that this little girl does.
I feel so torn. I don’t want to reject this little girl’s hugs, because children should not be shamed for wanting affection. But I also don’t want to encourage it, because with the exception of Mari’s children (who I don’t hug, either, but would if they initiated), I have zero interest in touching other people’s children.