This summer I have a list of goals for my kids. Those aspirations include daily reading, keeping up with piano practice and expanding their list of household chores. Yes, I hope they read classic Beverly Cleary novels and learn a few new tunes, but honestly? The only goal I really care about is that they honor my simple request that they not touch me if the temperature is over 85 degrees. (If it's humid, make that 79 degrees).
I've accepted that many of my mothering duties involve physical touch. I like holding their hands and having them wedge themselves into my lap when they are tired. But when everyone is sweaty and slightly stinky, I'm not really in the market for human touch—even from my children.
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In April, I have to beg my children to sit in my lap or let me give them a bear hug before school. When the temperature is mild, it seems they are busy becoming Big Kids and getting on with the important business of establishing autonomy from Dear Old Mom.
Is it cruel to refuse my 5-year-old my lap when he's tired after dinner? To refuse my 6-year-old's hand when we walk home from day camp?
But the minute the mercury climbs high enough to warrant daily swimming and popsicles, they are desperate for my physical affection.
Suddenly, they want to sit in my lap at the barbecue where there's no shade and a 1,000-degree smoker is turning a hot day into an inferno. When we are walking down a sidewalk that is shimmering from the soaring temperatures, suddenly both my children grab for my hand and hold on tight.
Listen, I want to say, if our body parts are so sweaty we can barely hold on, isn't it a sign that we shouldn't touch each other? That's just science, kids. Shouldn't we all agree that slippery sweat is nature's way of saying, "Stop touching until fall!"
Is it cruel to refuse my 5-year-old my lap when he's tired after dinner? To refuse my 6-year-old's hand when we walk home from day camp? Maybe. But isn't it cruel to expect me to have skin-to-skin contact in temperatures hot enough to scramble an egg at our feet?
I'm not a total monster. They can touch me if we are all in a swimming pool, or if I'm standing in a walk-in freezer. If they visit me at my office, where Becky from accounting keeps the temperature at 58 degrees year-round, then by all means, they can come sit in Mama's lap—hell come in for a bear hug at the same time.
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But not at the picnic. Or the street festival. Or the soccer game. If they are in doubt about whether it's a no-touch day, they should err on the side of not touching me. "Save that for January," I insist. Or the autumn hayride or when we go ice skating over Thanksgiving break.
So, yes, I want them to make their beds every day and use their manners. But those are extras. Gravy. What I really want is for them to keep their sweaty body parts away from mine on the long, hot summer days. Is that so wrong?