My one-year-old great-grandson, Ace, is trying to show his three-year-old cousin, Knola, his joy in meeting her, by attempting to hug her. But, we can see from her posture that Knola is not interested, as she moves away from him. Ace is persistent, though, and Knola looks as if she wants to know why their grandfather is taking photos rather than grabbing Ace and cooling his determination to show his happiness at meeting her.
It is the first time that these two have met, due to the pandemic, and I am told that Ace has never reacted to anyone the way is doing with Knola. Yet, Ace freely lets his emotions be on view. He isn’t afraid to show that he finds his cousin someone of value, determined to let her know of his appreciation for her.
I can’t wait to meet Ace, because he has inherited my love of hugging, although I certainly lack his tenacity. My oldest son, their grandfather, and I laughed at the scene, but I think that somewhere on the way to adulthood, we tend to become so proper in how we demonstrate our joy in meeting others that we lose that sense of spontaneity that illuminates our emotions.
We are hesitant to greet people with all of the emotion we feel, maybe because we worry about being hurt. But, I think the difference between the squealing pleasure of children”s greetings and the hesitancy of adults’ greetings has more to do with being socialized to exercise decorum, so that we are not viewed as lacking control.
The pitch of our greetings depends on whether we can detect the expectations of the other person, and by the time we have covered all of the possible ways that they may respond, a lukewarm welcome is all that we can deliver. And then, there is the perception of difference that shapes how we greet people we consider the “other.”
I doubt that I will change at my age, but Ace has shown me how beautiful it can be to let our exuberance show. Children greet you with so much love and appreciation! But, as a woman, I am freer than men to let my emotions show, a lack of equality that often hinders relationships because boys and men are often not allowed to show any emotions but anger.
Eventually, Knola allowed Ace to hug her, bringing him smiles and joy. He seems like a great little fellow. I look forward to experiencing one of his heartfelt and honest embraces.