Free Mom Hugs


I am the worst at feeling up to plans and then finding in the days leading up to them that I am drained and dreading them.  The week before pride in DC was no different, and the weather report did nothing to encourage me to pull through. The beginning of the week showed extreme temps, and the rest of the week showed thunderstorms. The idea of the metro felt overwhelming. My littlest kids were incredibly needy and restless at night. My workload was heavy. I was trying to find my way out of it. I tried broach the subject with my kiddo and when I saw the look on her face, I knew that I needed to pull my act together.


I am so, so thankful that I did. OH MY STARS. We had the best day.


A few weeks ago my dear friend sent out a trauma mom SOS. Anyone parenting in the trenches of trauma care knows that there are moments when you just cannot. even. anymore. not for one second. It’s not even that that particular moment is bad, it’s just that our cups are emptied faster by situations that most parents don’t face and we kind of can’t discuss them with anyone other than “our kind” lest you think our kids are giant assholes. So Sarah has been my SOS call, and I was happy to return the favor… we are in this mess together, thankfully. haha 🙂 We met for dinner and drinks and too much talking. It was wonderful and refreshing and life giving, truly. While chatting, she told me about a podcast she had listened to via Jen Hatmaker about a woman who organized a group of moms and dubbed it “free mom hugs.” The OG mom hugger was heavily involved in the evangelical community and then her son came out to her as gay and their journey led her to see how many in the LGBT community have been shunned by their families.  This is mind boggling to me, though I have seen it in practice many times. How on earth can we believe this is the gospel? How on earth, when we know how high suicide rates are in the LGBT community, are we closing our arms to our children?


So, obviously, that is what free mom hugs is all about… open arms from a mom (or dad) to kids who may have forgotten what that felt like.


Despite all my grumblings, we met at the target parking lot and headed into DC with coffee and our sign, two moms and my Emma. I texted Sarah on the way and said “Dude… maybe everyone will think that we are married and she is our kid” and that was pretty much how the day played out, which we all adored. It was a short lived marriage, but a good one 😉


I found entering pride to be totally and completely over whelming. Noisy, hot (though not nearly as hot as originally anticipated, thankfully) vibrant colors, a thick crowd forming, every vendor trying to talk to you, an awkward, stiff cardboard sign inhibiting my movements. My chest felt tight and I wanted to go home, which is how I always feel when I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, so I knew I was in the right place.


Y’all, I don’t know if you are aware, but I am not gay. ha! I am an ally, I have numerous close gay friends, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I acknowledged how uncomfortable I am being the minority. I felt like a big, goofy, old, straight, poorly dressed dork. And I kind of loved that and hated it, too, because I realized how comfortable my life is. I think I need to be less comfortable to be a better ally.


So… as we started to walk down the first aisle, the first several tents were churches. WERE CHURCHES. Praise the Lord. Sarah and I were the biggest goofs, tears already in our eyes. How awesome that so many faiths came together to represent a loving, affirming God. It was still early, and the event was still warming up and it just felt really strange. I was clutching my sign to my body, folding into myself, but thank goodness for Sarah because she remembered why we were there and with zero fanfare approached a young man and said “do you need a hug? I am here. To hug people” and he looked completely confused, and then happy, and then said “really?” and then collapsed into first Sarah and then myself and then said “you cannot even know how much I needed that.”


And so would begin the theme of the day. Strange looks, followed by “really?” followed by huge smiles, hugs and stories. After our first hug, I told Sarah that if we reached no one else, he made it worth it. And I kind of wish that was how it played out. I wish that there was just one young man that needed to be wrapped up in the arms of a mom, that everyone else had their moms to do so… but time and time we heard “I wish my mom would hug me” and my heart just broke more and more. Over and over and over again we heard “hell yeah, I can use a mom hug!” and my favorite… “ain’t no hug like a momma’s hug.” And so we walked, from the archives towards the capital and back again. We ducked into nearly every vendor and threw open our smelly arms… sometimes smoothly, sometimes cringe-worthily awkward but we did it… we showed up and we hugged people. We told them we loved them and were proud of them and how much fun we wanted them to have. We reminded them that they were special and worthy and GOD’S PRECIOUS CHILD and we did it with so few words… and I think that is why I am having such difficulty finding the words to describe it, because it was more a communion than a discussion. I can’t find the words to tell you that I can feel the imprint of every body I wrapped in my arms. I can’t find the words to describe the young trans man with fresh scars that deserved his real momma, but was so happy for us shabby stand ins that he cried into my shoulder. and how truly unfair that is. I can’t tell you how vulnerable it is for someone with a fair amount of worldly goods, that regularly offers gifts of monetary value, to instead strip all of that away and offer a piece of my heart instead.  We hugged kids. Older men. Militant chicks. A guy with a cheeky Jesus tee that I probably need to repent for laughing at (“Ah, men!” it said. and I died.) Men who worked for the state department that happened to be gay, and police officers that happened to be working the day. Guys, we saw, and hugged, Jesus in so many incarnations. How could I ever find the words for that? There just aren’t any.


But… I know this… we are just beginning. We have an entire year to make this YUGE. We have so many ideas and as soon as we find words for them, we will start planning pride 2019. We’d love to have you all there! So many arms. So much love. SO many mommas. So much a lack of words because the feelings are too big. I’d really love to find a way to network so we can help mom the other 364 days a year, too.


Onward, momma warriors. We’ve got work to do.

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