She turned her head slightly to the side. A subtle move I’m learning to recognise.
Just the single sound – a word in our family lexicon, now.
And somehow, a wealth of meaning is wrapped up in those two short syllables.
“I’m cute,” they say. “I’m here.” “I do love you.”
The word is Red Riding Hood’s equivalent of a life preserver. The ocean’s not terribly rough; the tide not particularly strong. Even so, the ground beneath your feet may not be stable. You might be washed out to sea.
Anything could happen.
You need a lifeline.
Red Ridinghood is selective in who she allows in. Her walls are up. Her space is defined. She may love to be kissed and cuddled and held. She may enjoy a tickle, a cuddle, a zerbit.
She may not.
When she keeps her distance, it’s not personal. You’ve done nothing wrong, and she still loves you. She just needs her space.
In all of her eight-turning-nine-next-week wisdom, Red realises that some of us express our love through the very things that sometimes – just sometimes – make her so uncomfortable. Sometimes we kiss and cuddle and hug and tickle and zerbit and tease.
She gets it.
She just doesn’t like it.
And she doesn’t have to. From birth (and even before. Seriously.) I’ve always made it clear to my girls that no one may touch them in ways that make them uncomfortable. From Great Aunt Ethel’s cheek-squeezing greetings to Granny Mae’s kisses, they’re allowed to say no. While we expect a polite response to any greeting, we never expect the girls to touch or allow touch they don’t welcome.
But that doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t want to pick them up and cuddle them and just enjoy the smell and feel and weight and heft and them-ness of these incredible angels we’ve been given.
So Red establishes her boundaries. Then she wrinkles her nose, looks up to the left (as she does), and blesses us with her magic word.