Dads: Are you a hugger or a shaker when it comes to your sons?


This morning, as I dropped my sons off at school, my seven year-old reached his arms up, grabbed my waist and squeezed. A micro-second later, he was joined by his four year-old brother, who had my legs in a bear hug.

They both then presented their faces with big puckered lips and waited for me to kiss them. Yes, on the lips.

This is our morning ritual. I drop my sons off at school, we hug and kiss each other goodbye. And then at the end of the day, we greet each other in similar fashion.

And then we go home for more hugs and kisses, given the slightest excuse. A spelling done correctly; a hug. Some nice handwriting; a kiss. Their teatime plates cleaned; hugs and kisses.

Oh sod it, even if they do nothing at all except simply exist, I’m all over them like a wasp on jam.

I live for the hugs and kisses of my children (and from their mother, in case she’s reading!)

And I wonder if it’s because I was deprived of them when I was growing up. Not from my Mum, but from my Dad.

We didn’t do hugs in our family, not even manly ones. I can’t remember ever hugging my dad, or being hugged by him. I know it hapenned, because I’ve got the photos to prove it, but they were all taken when I was under five years old. After that, there is no record of any Father-t0-Son physical contact.

I sometimes wonder if my Dad regrets this. He’s from the same generation of Lord Prescott, who revealed on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs that he had never hugged his own two sons.

“I was a bit detached as a father – not indifferent, but kind of detached,” he said. “That comes from a background, a culture.

“I’ve got two brilliant sons and I love them to death, but to my great regret I cannot somehow put my arms around my sons.

“I don’t know where it comes from, but I very much regret that I never had that.

“I think that’s part of British culture and that was reflected a bit in me and I’m sad about that.”

It makes me sad that I can’t hug my own father. I remember once telling my mother that I wanted to tell my Dad how much I loved him “before it was too late”.

Her reply was blunt and dismissive: “Don’t be ridiculous. You’d embarrass him. Anyway, he knows. You don’t need to tell him.”

A few years later, we stood side-by-side in the front pew at my mother’s funeral – and I still couldn’t put an arm around him as his shoulders shook as he fought his grief.

Men like my Dad didn’t hug. It had nothing to do with a sense of maniless. It was barely a deliberate decision. It just wasn’t done. His father was a bricklayer and heavyweight boxer. He brought his two sons up to be tough. And my Dad did the same with me and my three younger brothers.

We were introduced to the concept of the Manly Handshake before we were teenagers. You could hug your mother, you could kiss you mother, but you shook hands with the Man of the House.

But something went awry with my hugging DNA.

I’m not afraid to show physical affection to the males in my life, from my sons to my best friends – and even to my new “virtual” male friends in cyberspace on Twitter, where we often send each other Man-Hugs in 140 characters as a demonstration of support.

But funnily enough, I can’t hug my brothers.

Is it a working class thing? They all work in the building trade. I think they’d clock me with a lump hammer if I gestured for them to “Come here and let your Big Bruv give you a hug”. Although they’re very happy to squeeze the life out of their pals when their football team scores!

It was after I went into the touchy-feely world of the media after leaving school 30 years ago that I got in touch with my physically expressive side.

Hugging was just a part and parcel of meeting and greeting. Hell, I even KISS my friends when the circumstances dictate (though mainly after a few drinks with the words ‘I fuggin’ love you you’re my besht mate’). But never on the lips, I hasten to add.

That particular display of affection is reserved for my wife – and my sons. And, thankfully, it is reciprocated. At least until they become surly, sulky teenagers – and then all physically contact, no matter how manfully motivated, will be out of the window.

I’d better start teaching them how to shake hands!



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11 Responses to Dads: Are you a hugger or a shaker when it comes to your sons?

  1. I hug my boy, in fact I’ll hug anyone who’ll have me.

    My dad was of the same firm handshake only ethos, but I hug him these days. He’s got over his discomfort. Think sometimes men can worry about what others think, what the perceptions other men (and women) make about huggers.

    I’m with you on reserving my best hugs.

  2. You’re certainly right about the teenage bit, physical contact with the old man goes out the window rapidly, fortunately I can still get a hug from the daughters.

  3. John Madden

    I’m very much a hugger, both with my three year-old son and with my own Dad – and my Mum, for that matter. Less so with my brothers or friends, although in instances of celebration or consolation we will hug it out.

  4. John

    Definite hugger and kisser and my 2yo loves it. He even asks for family hugs from me and my wife. I’m going to enjoy them while it lasts as I know when he’s older he’s not going to want a kiss off his dad!

  5. Danny

    Big hugs and kisses, if they let me !

  6. Jude.x

    What a lovely post. I grew up not a million miles from you – round about the same time. Although I lost both parents before I was 12, I remember loads of hugs. I feel so lucky to have had a “huggy” family….. still loads of hugs from both brothers. My three adult children are all huggers too. (2 sons, 1 daughter). I hug anyone who’ll let me! LOL. My other half – well! What can I say about his mother? Cold fish springs to mind….. His Dad was gentle, but MIL soon let him know that’s hugs were for sissy’s – poor man. But sod it. I loved him so I hugged him! 😀 TFS Jude.x
    P.S. Hope you are now feeling better?

  7. I LOVE this post (in an over-affectionate, wanting to hug it sorta way – but then I’m a soppy, touchy-feely woman).
    My husband was the same. In fact his Dad AND his Mum never hugged him. Not that he can recall.
    When we met, he was embarrassed by any public displays of affection. I had to badger him to hold hands when we were out.
    But gradually, he came round. And when we had the boys he fell in love all over again. I’m so glad these cycles can be broken.
    And when he met up with his Mum and Dad, he started to hug them – and they hugged back.
    I like to think I helped him to do that.

  8. Lovely post, inspired me to write one of my own about the history of hugging in my family –

  9. Ali

    What would life be without hugs? My two will be 13 & 11 in the Summer and both still love hugs. But I am the main hug giver of the household which despite my encouraging and the fact my husband loves his children dearly that natural comfortable hug just doesn’t come well naturally. Which I think is a real shame.

    I think it is linked into your up bringing though I know I was closer to my much but never really remember the huge amount of hugs and cuddles my two get. I can always remember desperately wanting more attention from my Dad and when a bit older making him late night supper’s with fancy cut out salad’s bit etc and making him Coffee and Walnut cake just to win a bit of approval. I like to say it worked but to be honest I am not sure it did :-(

    I hug him goodbye now and he does hug the children goodbye when he leaves after visiting.

    I call my two cuddle monsters but actually I think it is me too :-) my two deem hugs as really important so I hope they always think that way.

  10. James

    I’m that way with my nieces & nephew…. I’ll hug anyone! Long hugs are included!

  11. Eddie

    I only got a hug on my birthday and it felt odd