The small girl is an easy hug, she still fits (barely) into the crook of my arm, she can be hoicked up onto a hip. She's still in a nappy, still rounded, her head fits under my chin. I don't have to think about it much.
But hugging a 5 year old with gangly limbs and sharper angles, with longer hair to get in my nose, heavier in body weight and conversation, is more challenging. She still wants hugs, but logistically it takes more care.
I guess there's an evolutionary aspect to it. Our children grow up, and like chicks who no longer fit under their mother's wing they have to start learning to find their own way. They need to learn to self-soothe, to be confident in their place in the world and the family without the continual physical reassurance of mum's arms.
But as those hugs get fewer they also, as I think about it, get more meaningful. Now I need to take the time to sit down, kneel down, lie down, to physically accommodate my big baby. I'm incapable of doing anything else at the same time so I focus more.
I sniff that nose-tickling hair, stroke those sharp shoulders and thin, strong limbs. I listen to what she's saying, really listen. I tell her to stop fidgeting and tell her, again, how small she was when she was born, how her hair was black and her face so very red.
She doesn't stick around as long. There's a world to conquer, a sister to bully, some ducks to chase.
She still wants hugs, long may that last, but she needs them less. Her world is expanding as those limbs grow.
Powered by a growing sense of self, she comes back for recharging less frequently, and I'm learning to appreciate it each time she does.
Even as my thighs go numb from her bony bum.