“Why do I have to do this! I don’t want to!” my kiddo yelled at me after I asked them to help me clean up the ransacked living room.

“We have to clean up after ourselves, honey. We can’t live with this mess on the ground, we can hardly walk,” I said gently, willing myself to stay patient. Don’t lose it, just stay calm.

“You’re being mean!” she said with a loud foot stomp.

“It won’t take very long if we just get to it,” I said, my patience running extremely thin.

Her exhaustion got the best of her and she burst into tears. “I don’t want to do what you say!” Her sass was growing quickly and my frustration was catching up. “I just want to play with my Barbies!” she said with the attitude of a teenager, at the same time she hugged me and nuzzled her head into the softness of my side.

Oh, right. Even if you’re talking like a sassy teenager, it doesn’t mean you are. You’re not even seven yet. You need my help.

I knelt down and wrapped her in my arms. We breathed deeply together, momentarily forgetting any hurt feelings. After a minute or two, we let go. She stopped crying. I gained some patience back. Things were okay. We were quiet.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” she whispered. Tears pricked my eyes.

“It’s okay, hon. We all have moments like that. Do you think we can try again and clean some of this up quickly? Then you can get back to your Barbies. Does that sound like a deal?”

“Yes, I can do that.”

We cleaned up the mess in less than five minutes and she was back in Barbie world in less than ten. She was tired and didn’t feel like she had control of the situation and desperately needed a hug. A moment of calm. A safe spot to reset. Together, we figured it out.

That’s what my hugs are to my children.

They’re an answer. A problem solver. They’re rest and support rolled up together.

A reminder that we’re okay if we’re together. A reminder that we’ve got this—complications, challenges, and all—together.

And you know what? That’s what their hugs are to me, too.

When I receive an email with disappointing news or don’t get something I was really hoping for, their hugs can bring me back to reality. To what’s important.

Their hugs comfort me, like mine comfort them.

When I’m worrying about them and the house and my sister and my parents and my neighbor and politics and to-do lists and homeschooling and my body and my poor night owl habits—when my anxiety is taking over—a hug from them can quickly ease some of my worries.

Their hugs feel grounding to me, like mine feel grounding to them.

When I’m burnt out, tired beyond belief, and have to sit down on the couch because I literally can’t do anything else, their tiny hug while they sit next to me (or more likely on top of me) gives me the motivation I need to keep going, to keep the wheels turning.

Their hugs help me recenter, just like mine help them recenter.

When the world feels extra heavy and the sadness is dragging me down, my kids can tell. They pick up on my “off-ness” and they always reach out for a hug or try to tell me a funny joke to get me to smile. Their sensitivity and awareness, their thoughtfulness and compassion make me feel so deeply loved.

Their hugs make me feel okay, even when things aren’t really okay.

When I’ve made a mistake or raised my voice, when I’ve forgotten to get balloons for a birthday or didn’t get them outside much to play, I feel like a failure. At times, I beat myself up. I apologize and they tell me it’s okay; they hug me and squeeze me around the neck reassuring me that I’m the “best Mommy ever”.

Their hugs remind me that I’m enough, and I hope my hugs remind them that they’re my world.

When something really great happens, a celebratory hug from them feels like a gold medal.

Their hugs are pure happiness, and I hope they feel that from mine, too.

To me, a naturally affectionate person, there’s nothing like a good hug when you’re feeling crummy or less than or uninspired and unenthused. They make me feel like I’m doing a good job. Like everything will be just fine.

Like they are seeing me, caring for me, thinking of me.

Like a deep breath.

It’s a reminder that I have their hearts, and they have mine, forever and always.