Because I don't.

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Yes, my mother hugged me, but in thinking about it now, it occurs to me that I was also the initiator. I also clearly recall sitting in my mothers lap - into my teenage years. Even though I was a good three inches taller, I would sit in her lap and she would rock as we talked about whatever it was I sought her out for.

As a small child I can remember holding my fathers hand while on long hikes and he would play a silly game twisting his pinky around my wrist that always made me laugh. I can remember riding on my fathers shoulders as well - during these long hikes. But hugging? I honestly don't remember ever hugging my father.

As an adult my mom and I would hug. But again, I was the initiator. With my dad - I can think of a couple awkward kisses on the cheek. But that's about it.

All of that said - I think a hug can be over rated. Especially when I think of all the near strangers who have hugged me over the years.

For me at least, it comes down the actions over the life of the relationship. My father was ALWAYS there for me. He gave me support, encouragement, comfort, wisdom, advice and much much more. My father never once let me down. My mother, on the other hand - not so much. Understatement.

In the end, I looked after both my parents in their final years. For my mother it was out of duty, responsibility and respect. For my father - it was pure love and adoration.
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I remember being firmly - not roughly, just firmly - removed from her knee when I tried to climb up. I would have been four or five. Don't think I ever bothered trying again.

Like JessieBelle, I think you just have to accept people's particularities - and, as she points out too, accept them in yourself if you've inherited them. Nowadays I make a conscious effort to be huggier than my mother was, so I'm comfortable kissing cheeks and even hugged a lady in the park (with her permission, obviously!) who'd just lost her mother. Left to my most natural inclinations I wouldn't have any sort of physical contact with other people.

The reason I try to overcome it, by the way, is not that I feel abnormal and want to fit in, but that I came to feel that there is a terrible loneliness in shutting oneself away like this. Towards mother's last days, what gave her the most reassurance was not when I told her that we all loved her, but when I suddenly thought to add that we knew she loved us. She did, very much. She was just incapable of physically nurturing anyone or anything.
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Lolagirl, my Mom was the same way, she was one of 5 sisters and I only remember one who liked to hug. Hugging my Mom was like hugging an ironing board.

This had made me very shy about any type of affection, except to my felines. As I have gotten older, and the final year of my parents, I started to hug more because the nurses and Aide would hug me. Dad had one caregiver who use to give THE best hugs.
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OMG, this thread is both interesting, and also extremely sad to me, as I was raised in very loving and huggy-kissy family. I almost hate to even say what a wonderful childhood I had, as it would sound unbelievable to most!

My folks immigrated to the US from Wales UK, after my Mom's eldest sister married and American GI. My Mom had met my Dad at 16, he was 17, and both worked in a small town, Newport Monmouthshire, her in a variety/clothing department store, and he in a Men's suit store.

It was 1949, and they had been dating for 3 years, when she tried to break it off with him, as she being the youngest of 5 kids, underage and unmarried, would be leaving with her parents on the first available ship to the USA, as her sister and husband were acting as sponsors for their immigration. Obviously her boyfriend (my Dad) was in love with her by this point, and he too filled out the paperwork to immigrate as well, it must have been much easier to do so in those days.

So to Seattle Washington they came on the Queen Mary cruise ship, My Grandparent's, my Mom and My Father, and once they arrived, they immediately got married her, in 1950.

Over the next few years, my Mom's other 2 sisters, and her only brother, their spouses and a few Welsh born kids all came too, as did my Grandmother's sister, and her 5 daughter's and husband's. Soon there were many children to follow, my siblings and cousins.

My parents were very much in love, and were always affectionate in front of us and to us, never a day went by where we weren't told that we were loved, and both of my parents hugged and kissed us daily. It was nothing to have 2 or more kids in their bed drinking tea on a weekend morning.

There were lots of family parties and caravan car vacations, and I always hugged and kissed each Aunties and Uncles, so I'm not sure if it were a cultural thing or not, but all of these adults had lived through the war, and many of my Uncles were soldiers, so I just thought this was a normal thing, never knowing if you would see that person again,  and to make sure you told each other that you loved them.  I knew that my family was different, as none of my friends families were like mine.

There is a story that my Mom often told, about her finding out she was pregnant Again! She was scared to tell my Dad, having had 6 kids in 11 years, but every time she would cry "I'm Pregnant", my Dad always responded, "don't worry, there will always be room for one more!".

My Dad loved children, and he did work hard at his job, but always came home and showed us kids affection. He would pour a drink, and put on his Hi-Fi, his favorite, big band music, and teach us girls how to dance. He was always kissing on our Mom, and was never reserved about showing us he loved us, and my Mom was the best, I can't think of a more idyllic childhood than ours.

And our parents treated us all the same, and while I know that they had unique relationships with all their kids, none of us ever felt slighted or jealous of each other, and we are all close to this day.

My Dad was a staunch Catholic, but my Mom was not and she didn't convert until she was dying and on Hospice, however she fully supported us all being raised in the church, and saw to it that we all went to CCD (catechism) and that each of us completed our religious Sacrements.

Sunday morning our Dad solely took us to church, all six kids, even as babies. The church members were all amazed on how he could keep us all in check, but he did. He was amazing at being able to put a baby to sleep in church, and with each of his Grandchildren as they came along. He would hold them tight and way up close under his chin, rock us slowly back and forth, all the while exhaling through his nose a top of the babies head in a slow and constant rhythm, Lol! It worked every time, but I guess with 6 kids you get pretty good at it, but he was a very hands on Father for his day, always happy and cheerful!

I am deeply saddened by the kind of upbringing my husband had, no outward affection from his Dad, and he doesn't recall ever being told that they loved him, except from his Mother on her death bed in hospital.

Our kids were raised very much like I was raised, and it shows in their demeanor and their happy relationships with their spouses.

I make a conscious effort to tell my FIL that I love him before he goes to sleep at night, and he is finally more comfortable in returning the phrase. I think it's important that he knows that, now that he is Dying and on Hospice in our home. It obviously doesn't roll easily off his tongue, but he's getting there! In his case, I believe it was a cultural thing, him being a stuborn Norwegian, who held his feelings close to his vest. Sadly, I believe it made for severe insecurity and dysfunction in his children and family.
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest a different focus. I'll probably get cyberslapped and beaten up, but I'm going to write this anyway.

What difference does it make? Does it affect how you help or don't help your parents? Does it affect your own self image? If your parents didn't interact physically, will that be a determining factor in the care you provide?

JessieBelle, CM and FF wrote eloquently and from the heart how they've addressed these issues. That's an excellent approach.

Parenting isn't something that comes naturally to everyone; some still try, others don't. Some have emotional issues and can't express affection. Should they be condemned for that? Would it make a difference in how they're cared for now?

During the course of working over decades, I occasionally encountered someone at either a clerical or professional level who didn't feel that he or she was treated as expected. The comments were similar: "why should I knock myself out, why should I have to give up vacations or work on holidays...BECAUSE, the principals/partners, "they", other staff....don't appreciate it.

To me that was an inappropriate justification for not meeting standards of the employer, even if they were intense (i.e., new associates at big NY law firms are typically expected to work long hours and sometimes weekends when the firm is working on major deals -such as an IPO or takeover). And we all had hourly quotas to meet.

When I got tired of this whining, I asked if they were working for appreciation from others or because they had chosen that profession, or because they needed the money.

This used to be an occasional subject of discussion an attorney forum that I used to frequent, again, with the approach being "why should I bust my butt (excuse the expression) when the partners don't care and just want to increase their revenue?"

Again, I wondered the same thing as when I encountered this at work: are they working to get gratitude and appreciation? Did they spend 7 years in college to get "attaboys" from the partners? Or are they shifting their own dissatisfaction with their chosen career to others? Do they shift personal unhappiness to their wife, their children, their parents?

Do they REALLY need this emotional reassurance from partners and co-workers, or in other situations, from family members?

So I raise the same question here, w/o intending to offend but rather to help get to the issue of why a parent's physical interaction is important, and why I think that like Jessie and Barb, and others here, we need to factor out parental (and sibling) shortcomings and/or failings and focus on why we're taking care of our parents.

And I won't deny that I can become very resentful when I think of my nonparticipatory sibling, but it only upsets me if I think about it b/c my sibling is not going to change. Do I want to compromise my care of my parent b/c of that? I would hope I'm more mature than to become trapped by resentment, but I don't deny that it's a serious issue and challenge for caregivers, including me.

Honestly, I don't even remember if my parents were affectionate physically. I had a good childhood, I respected them and they respected me. And they provided well for us, even when Dad was laid off. They were decent, generous w/I their financial means, educated and intelligent, and provided what I considered love and care as well as a good home and opportunities. They supported us, and they're part of who I am today.

If I were to analyze whether or not they justified support now, I would feel very selfish. When I think of how much I will or won't do, it's based on whether I can physically, emotionally and/or whether or not I can find paid workers to do it so I can do something else.

I won't deny that there are aspects of caregiving that don't appeal to me. But they're ends to a mean. I hate driving back and forth to medical appointments, I hate pureeing food, I hate housework, but it's those tasks that I hate, rather than the purpose for which they're being done.

And I try not to (I still battle this sometimes) make decisions on the elements of the task, as opposed to the end result.

If I succumbed to that, I know that I'd forever regret it and torture myself once I'm all alone and my family is gone. And I don't want to do that, living and regretting what I could have done now.

I'm not writing this to challenge, denigrate, insult, demean or in any other way infer that someone's preoccupied with issues and events that occurred decades ago.

I'm writing this to offer a different perspective, from a deeper familial level, to help focus on what kind of people we are, and what's important in the long run about caregiving.

Stepping down from the podium, I've put on my cyberarmor, so you can criticize me all you like.
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Don't remember much about my mother, but I am waiting for many hugs now.
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I do! My mom always had to work, but on Saturday mornings we would all climb in her bed and snuggle!
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I am sure that is part of why I have a hard time caring for mother now. She picked her favorites from among the 6 of us. I didn't make the "cut". She was not openly cruel, but she definitely didn't like me. And she doesn't now. At least she's learned to "fake it".

However, my daddy adored me and I was not starving for love. My grandmothers loved me. I had it better than a lot of people.
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I have no such memories.

I don't remember her ever turning me away, exactly....just never offering comfort. No hugs at bed time, no recognition for my efforts.

Even right up to the end, I never really knew her. She was always pleasant, easy to get along with.....just like any casual  Acquaintance would be.

I worked very hard at not being my mother with my own kids.
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Gardenartist - I'm not going on the attack here, but I don't think you can really compare paid employment with caregiving. When it comes to employment, I think if you don't want to do the work, you don't take the job. Appreciation might enter into your job satisfaction, but it shouldn't enter into whether you do your work or not, although it could reasonably enter into whether you seek a different job.

Caregiving, though, is a major sacrifice, not to mention unpaid. I think it does make a difference to most people how they were treated as children, when it comes to their willingness to make major sacrifices for their parents. My siblings are all MIA due to their lack of attachment to my mother, except for one sister who has the same lack of attachment but helps out simply out of a sense of fairness.

I also think the issue is not so much whether your parent was physically demonstrative, but whether they treated you with love and respect not only in childhood but in adulthood. My mother would truly have no use for her adult children if it were not for the fact that some of us are taking care of her. That does change how I feel about helping her and does affect how much and what I'm willing to do for her. I truly wish I had a different kind of parent, one I could feel good about taking care of. But I don't.
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