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January 22, 2019

Touch in the life of a child

I remember listening to the radio one Friday evening and the speaker was talking about the importance of touch in the life of a child. The speaker said that a tender meaningful touch plays a critical part in blessing our children. He went on to cite examples of people whose lives were messed up because they lacked touch at home and went looking for it in all the wrong places.

As an extension of our work with the church, Tony and I deal with a lot of people who were wounded by either lack of touch or abuse of touch. I was talking to a young lady once and after the meeting I hugged her, she began to cry and couldn’t stop. Needless to say, I was alarmed and asked her what was going on. She said she could not remember her mother ever hugging her. She was in her late teens. Like most people, any time her mother raised her hands it was to inflict pain. How sad!

Don’t get me wrong unlike the popular wave this days, I am a proponent for spanking; spanking, not abuse. However I don’t believe that the same hand that is used to stroke and to hold should be the same hand that is used to hit. I don’t want my children associating touch with pain. I remember an incident in our home from some time back.

Our tool of discipline is a wooden spatula (the all famous mwiko). Once when the two older boys were much younger, my brother came visiting and was with me in the kitchen as I prepared dinner. Part of the menu was ugali and just as I turned to pick the mwiko, Toriah came into the kitchen. He did a double turn and murmuring a few words to my brother took off back where he came from. My brother turned to me in amazement. “Carole”, he said “I think you are traumatizing your boys with that mwiko”. Apparently Toriah thought I had brought out the mwiko to spank and for the life of him, he could not figure out what infraction he had committed. After this incident we bought a green mwiko and used it for disciplining to avoid confusion.

I realise the importance of touch once more with baby Thayu. Every bath time I take some time to give a little massage and his tiny face just lights up. He may be too tiny to talk but from the look on his face as I touch him and rub his tummy I can tell he loves it. He knows that I am saying I love you. No wonder Johnson and Johnson call massage the language of love. I totally agree with them. I have promised myself then to take every opportunity to hold all three of my boys even Tj, the tween (pre-teen). To hug them and tell them how special they are and how much I love them. Along the way, no doubt, there will be disciplinary moments, but I have purposed that those incidences will not be what define our relationship. I want them to look back at our time together as a period of learning and love and not a military base that they could hardly wait to leave.

As parents, the balance between disciplining and loving is difficult and the line does tend to be fuzzy, but it is of utmost importance that your child knows (in a language that he or she can understand) that you not only love them but also like them and that you think highly of them. If you ask my boys, “who is special?” you can be sure that the first name that comes out of their mouth will be their own. The world may not like it or think so, but truth be told that doesn’t matter, what really matters is what they think about themselves.



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