Matthew 8:3 (ERV)
Jesus touched the man. He said, “I want to heal you. Be healed!” Immediately the man was healed.
The following is an excerpt from my journal:
January 30, 2002
[My son], Philip [10 years old] wanted a gecko. He begged, he pleaded; and promised he would take care of it, I’d never have to do anything for the animal.
[However, like most children surrounded by dysfunction, he acted out.] I told him we wouldn’t bring a helpless animal into our home to be another victim; he had to stop acting out to get a pet. Philip promised he was done acting out so I broke down and promised to buy a gecko for him after one month, three full weeks of “no acting out”.
I never thought we’d ever get another pet. I didn’t plan to bring another victim in the home.
Philip however was very confident he was getting a pet. He was not discouraged by the amount of time he had to wait. To him, I had just set conditions that made a gecko obtainable and within his control. By this point, I had started to set boundaries to keep our abusers at arm’s length. He knew he was done acting out on January 9, 2002, because his mom would keep him safe.
I needed the three weeks; not Philip.
Much to my surprise and with much reservation, three weeks to the day after this discussion we headed to the pet store to buy the gecko and for me to learn my most cherished parenting skill from that day forward.
The pet store salesperson advised Philip to hold the gecko each day so the gecko would get used to being held and keep the gecko from becoming mean.
These words of advice hit me like a brick square in the face. My eyes must have exploded and my mouth must have dropped to the floor. Up to that point I wasn’t paying much attention to her instructions; I was still thinking this was a futile effort. Yet when she shared this very important piece of information my entire brain was alert.
I made her repeat her instruction several times. We discussed the importance of touching throughout the life cycle of the animal to nurture a pleasant disposition. Otherwise the gecko may begin to strike and we wouldn’t be able to pick him up without being bitten.
Touch. What a simple concept. My psychology and social work courses taught me a lot about boundaries but not about touch. I’d had lots of bad touches but what did I know about good touches? I learned this lesson at a pet store.
The most crucial parenting lesson to raise a happy, healthy and kind child was touch. I needed to touch Philip to keep him from becoming mean. People are animals; they need touch.
Philip was very snugly when he was little. I held him and hugged him when he was a baby. I wasn’t the touchiest parent in the world, but I have pictures to prove I touched him. I can’t remember when our physical relationship deteriorated or the last time I touched him in a loving way. Touch had become seldom and difficult. I guess all survivors of abuse have touch issues. I was no exception.
I couldn’t believe I neglected my son’s touch needs. This pet store salesperson revealed that Philip’s anger was a normal reaction to his environment. He needed good touches.
While the salesperson was speaking I reach over and put my hand on Philip’s shoulder. He tensed up but I left my hand there. It felt strange to just reach out and touch him; it was like touching a stranger. I couldn’t imagine trying to hug him every day, but I knew he needed it.
On the way home I reached over and touch him again. I apologized for neglecting his touch needs. Philip laughed-out loud, saying, “Oh Mom! I’m not a gecko, you know?” I agreed. Because he was bigger than a gecko he needed to be touched more than a gecko. He laughed again. We agreed to hug and kiss each other each day to avoid becoming mean. He thought I was crazy, but he also wore a huge smile. I think Philip actually glowed that night.
We both knew we loved each other and that was a very important milestone. We had our warm embrace.
It became a family joke and playtime. We teased one other about getting our daily touches when someone was irritable.
[I wish I could say I was a perfect parent from that day forward, but this post is all about truth. Thankfully, my family keeps me providing an appropriate dosage of touch to prevent me from being mean.
Our gecko (Ecky) passed away Saturday. I miss Ecky for the daily reminder he provided me about the importance of healing touches.]
Thank you , Lord, for many years with Ecky (gecko) as a living reminder of the importance of touch. May Ecky rest in peace (Saturday, 6/30/2012). Help us to always remember the healing power of touch during (affirmation of) our baptism, laying on of hands and sharing of peace. Amen.