March 25th, 2014 § Leave a Comment
I was born into a Korean family. We don’t hug. That’s just the way it is. I’m pretty sure my Father never kissed me … maybe, maybe when I was a baby. But that’s it. And when no one was looking. Now, get this: I have only one memory of my Mom kissing me. And when she did, she did it in secret. Snuck up to my bed while she thought I was sleeping. It was so strange, so foreign to my nine year old self that I continued to pretend I was sleeping. Never asked her about it or made mention of it to anyone. My Father didn’t hug me. My Mother didn’t hug me. I’ve never hugged my Brother. My older Brother is the closest person to me outside my immediate family, and yet I’ve hugged casual acquaintances more than I’ve hugged my Brother.
I know it sounds like I’m crying about it. I’m not. I am to a great degree a product of my culture – a culture I have learned to embrace … even celebrate. To illustrate, my Mom around the time of my engagement, broke down and started hugging me and telling me she loves me. When she tells me she loves me, she always does so in English, not in Korean. The Korean “I love you” is awkward. Culturally, it’s an unspoken concept. And so for my Mom to express it verbally, she literally steps out of her culture. She turns to a foreign tongue to do that which is foreign to her – express verbally what she’s felt all my life.
But I’m not letting Koreans or any other culture for that matter off the hook. Culture is real, ought to be considered and respected, but it cannot be left unexamined, unchallenged.
Lately, I’ve on more than one occasion considered the significance of the embrace. First of all, it’s touch. Now, think of what you will not touch: Icky, gross, nasty things. Unclean. And not just the hygienically unclean, right? We avoid touching the lowly, the despised. Touch is an act of joining, to make that other part of me. It’s an act of acceptance and maybe more, an act of reception. The embrace takes touch to another place. It is not creating a bridge. Not merely adjoining or granting access. It’s an enveloping. To open oneself and to hold another within. It’s a whole ‘nother kind of acceptance. Oneness.
Whatever your child is going through, whatever he or she has done, whether reconciliation needs to be worked out or recompense paid, a child ought to do it within the embrace of their Father. Even if their own self shuns them, they ought to find an embrace with you – enveloped in love, acceptance, value.
I’m Korean. Hugging ain’t my thing. But if stepping outside of my culture is going to have my kids experience all that is in the embrace of their Father, then you can believe I’ll be hugging my kids. Still ain’t hugging my Bro though. C’mon.