Have you hugged your kids today?

I don’t mean hugged them, I mean really hugged them?

It doesn’t matter the relation. Biological, adopted, foster, or guardianship, the question remains the same: have you hugged your kids today?

Not like it’s an obligation and they’re an inconvenience, but like it’s an honor and they’re a blessing.

And I’m not talking about the usual fleeting hugs you give them as you rush off to work, I’m talking about hugs that remain with them long after you’ve left.

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Do you hug them with such singularly focused determination that they feel safe, loved beyond measure, and blissfully unaware of their own mortality? That they feel untouchable from all the fears and insecurities of life that their little hearts secretly endure?

Do you grip them so deeply that they feel nothing bad could befall them as long as they remain in your embrace? That they are sheltered from the chaos of a world around them that’s gone mad?

Do you hug them so passionately that in your arms is the only place they want to be? That when they grow older they will look back on those hugs and yearn to be in that moment with you again?

Do you hug them with such an abiding love that they will long to return to that place—and that very moment in time—where mommy and daddy loved them like crazy and made them feel like nothing else in the world was more important, more precious, or more sought after?

Do they know how deeply—how fathomless—your love is for them? And are they secure in that love? Will they carry that assurance with them the rest of their lives?

Hugging your children is so simple and it leaves such a lasting effect on them, yet so few kids ever truly experience this simple gesture. Instead, so many of them are all too familiar with stern scowls, pain, anger, various types of abuse, and the constant reminder that they’re a burden to their parents.

So, don’t wast another minute. Hug your kids.

Hug them in a way that they’ll never doubt the depths of your unconditional love, even if you lose the ability to speak.

Hug them when they’re happy to let them know how happy you are to have them in your life, and hug them when they’re sad to let them know everything’s going to be all right.

Hug them when when they’ve been good, hug them when they’ve been bad. Hug them when you feel like it, hug them when you don’t.

Hug them as if they were dying because they are, and so are you. Because we are all dying.

And if you’re fortunate enough to live a long life—when you get too old to take them in your arms like you once did—they’ll embrace you with a tenderness that you’ll immediately recognize, and they’ll reassure you that everything’s going to be okay, just like you did for them so many years ago.

So, I ask you again: have you hugged your kids today?

If you haven’t, then stop reading this. Go to your kids and take five minutes—take an hour—and embrace them as if these were the last moments you were going to have with them.

No one lives forever and no one is promised tomorrow. Whether we like to admit it or not, we find ourselves one step closer to that foreboding end of life with every moment that passes.

And even if we’re blessed with a long life, every parent knows there will come a day when they’ll pick up their kids for the last time. But it doesn’t have to be that way with hugs.

So put down that phone and go hug your kids. No more excuses. Just hug them. Because hugs last a lifetime . . . but so do regrets.

Author With His Daughter

J.L. Pattison is the author of The Island and Saving Kennedy. He is also a prolific hugger of six little ones.