a tent for two: let’s talk about six, baby

Somewhere between 4 ½ and 6 seconds the hug became awkward.

Kindly, but with slight bewilderment, my husband asked “Ummmmm….what are you doing?”  It was a school day, he was running a few minutes behind, little Cole was bouncing off the walls on the way to the car and toddler Eleanor was into nine kinds of mischief.

And there I was, prolonging our hug good-bye.  It wasn’t the hug of desperation – the ‘pppplllllleeeeeeease don’t leave me here all day looooong with kneebiters’ one.  He could identify that hug easily.  It wasn’t the welcome home hug of the mildly insane ‘oh! you are here!!  You are back!!!  You are an adult who speaks in full sentences!!!!’.  {slight aside:  I am often tempted to ask Brian, the neighborhood UPS driver, just how often he gets pulled into lengthy conversations by stay-at-home parents whose need for adult interaction is a little too evident.}

Nope.  This was a run-of-the-mill ‘good-bye and have a great day’ hug.  Except it was lasting about five and a half heartbeats longer than usual.  Why?  Well, I wish I could direct you back to my source- but it is long lost in the ‘oh! That is so interesting!  I’ve got to write it down somewhere!’ meta-pile in my head.  {In other words, I read it before Delicious or Pinterest entered my life.}  And I just now spent far too long falling down the rabbit hole of internet research trying to find the original source, and all I found was a bunch of ‘research shows’ references without crediting the first study.  So you’re either going to have to dive in yourself, or trust me.

That’s what I thought.

Here’s what I recall from the article:  if you hold on to the one you love for six seconds, it will start to change your brain chemistry.  So, you know, six seconds of holding hands, touching their shoulder, or even better, hugging, will signal your brain to release the we’re-having-fun-here neurochemicals oxytocin and serotonin.  {and most likely others, but these are the ones I remember…}

So there I stood, counting to six, hoping the effects would last 14 hours.  Maybe I should have tried it with a bit more finesse or at a more opportune moment. {do those actually exist in parenting?}  I’d love to say that that one hug revolutionized our lives, but truthfully I have no memory of whether or not it worked on that particular day.

But think back.  Remember the rush of falling in love?  Falling because we were so often entwined?  Hands.  Lips.  Eyes.  Turns out all that near constant contact had our brains lit up like pinball machines of attraction and bonding.  Our brains were OD’ing on happy hormones.

Which brings to mind the slightly psychedelic pinball-machine-themed Sesame Street cartoon that helped us learn to count to 12.  {this I could easily find, which might lead one to write about the vagaries of online research…}  More than 30 years earlier than the hug research and they were already teaching us the importance of multiples of 6.  Hug for 12?  I wonder what that would do.  Which leads us nicely to our Tent for Two challenge.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…what if that’s all it takes?  What if six measly seconds are all we need to remember the fun stuff?  Six to putting goofy grins on our faces. Six to make our kids wonder why we are blushing and playing footsie at the dinner table.  So try it.  Count to six.  And keep me posted.*



*In the most general of terms.  No details necessary.  Really.  Void where prohibited.  Overachievers, I know, will go for 12.  Same rules apply.

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