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Hug your child, because gymnastics hugs aren't a thing right now 

In this crazy world of social distancing, many businesses have had to pivot or perish. As adults, we understand what's going on, but children are having a harder time. They want to play with their friends. They miss whispering secrets and playing tag. They want to hug their favorite gymnastics coach. That's me.

I work in one of the local gymnastics facilities. We spent our "pause" planning, praying, and over-preparing for the day we'd be allowed to reopen. I was elated when we were able to welcome back our first group of students after three months. And then it happened. One of the kids ran up to hug me. I could see the joy in her face. I watched it fade to confusion, then sadness as I had to back away. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to match her joy at reunification in the same language she chose to express it—a hug. But I couldn't. If we break distancing protocols, we risk hastening another shutdown.

Yes, we are open now, but we cannot interact with the students in the same way. They must learn more slowly because of contact-free coaching (though I'll admit, their verbal comprehension is likely to improve quickly). We cannot give the ecstatic high five when they master a new skill, or hold them up while they figure out how to straighten their legs in a handstand. They cannot hug their friends or their coach in triumph, and it makes them sad. It makes me sad, too.

My request for any parents who read this letter is simple: Hug your child. Hug them for the teachers, friends, and family members they can't touch right now. Hug them extra tight, and extra long, and with extra love because right now you are the only one who can.

Micha'elah Malmen

San Luis Obispo

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