The question underneath every other question.


Me and Ben, photo by Jen Downer,

It’s possible that one of the few places I’ve found, where love feels so pure,  is the love for those boys. The little ones with the big ocean eyes and long, thick lashes. The ones with yogurt smeared on their sleeve, denim torn at the knee, pot-bellied and pale-skinned. Those boys are so delicious I can feel my heart leap inside my chest at the sight of them.

“Mama loves you?”

This is Nico’s newest, and possibly most adorable question for me these days.

“Mama loves you?” he asks. And I say, “Yes, mama loves you…” and he wraps an arm around my neck and squeezes so hard that my left cheek and his right cheek touch with a glorious smoosh.

Last night when I was putting Ben down in his room, I heard Nico talking to Matt: “Mama loves you?” and Matt saying, “Yes, and daddy loves you too.”

“Daddy loves you? Benda loves you?” Nico continued to ask.

And I can relate to this question, that is perhaps underneath every other question.

Will you pick me up from class?
What should we have for dinner tonight?
Do you think we’ll go on vacation this year?

Maybe we are really asking- Do you love me? Am I lovable?

Ben has been sulking on the couch these days. When he gets upset about something, he runs into the living room and sits on the couch. After a minute or so he shouts, “Isn’t anyone going to come hug me?”

And I am learning, that when we are hurt, when we run away and hide, we really just want to be found.

And so I remember more these days to ask, “Do you need a hug?”

And he almost always says yes.





  1. Amy
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    This made me cry. So true. So beautiful. “And I am learning, that when we are hurt, when we run away and hide, we really just want to be found.”

  2. Stacey Morgenstern
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Love this post! Sometimes when Gregory and I get impatient or snippy with each other we are reminded that every act is act of love or a cry for love. So instead of defending, I remember to disarm and ask for what I really want underneath the snippiness… “Notice me. Love me. Remind me that I matter.”

  3. Posted February 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh, yes, yes, yes. We do want to know that we are loved, don’t we? We so desperately want to be hugged, held, and told over and over: Mama loves you.

    Underneath every question, every sigh, behind every tear it lingers, that desire, that hope, that longing to be received, welcomed, and loved.

    PS> Gail loves you, Andrea.

  4. Missy
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I know this feeling. Recently, when my husband and I had one of those irritating moments, I sulked off to our bedroom like the “youngest child” I sometimes emotionally am. It took forever for him to come see what the problem was. At first, I wanted to be alone, but after about 15 minutes, I started to worry and asked myself why I wanted him to be there in the first place. It’s because I wanted to feel loved and wanted. We are funny creatures, we humans.

  5. Rebecca Lovell
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    This is so beautiful. And I can only imagine how our world would change, if when we saw someone who was angry or hurting, we all asked “Do you need a hug?” I’m going to give that a try.

  6. Posted February 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    This made my heart melt.

    “when we are hurt, when we run away and hide, we really just want to be found”

    Yes, yes, yes this is so very true.

    Thank you for sharing your words and stories with us. xoxo

  7. Posted February 11, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Powerful. And couldn’t be more perfect or timely. Thank you for reminding me of this truth.

  8. Arabella
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    One of thest best things to happen to our family recently was the institution of “hug tokens”. Little wooden tokens I found that have a figure on them with their arms open wide. They sit in a bowl on a table in the kitchen where everyone can reach them. Whenever any of the kids needs a hug, they grab it and give it to whichever person they need a hug from.

    It sounds silly and contrived but it works so well. Saying “I need a hug” is so much harder somehow than just handing someone a wooden coin. I know this because WOW are there are lot more ‘hug requests’ these days around our house.

    And I’m loving all the extra hugs that are coming my way because of it.

  9. Jessica
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    So beautiful! What a poignant post.

  10. Posted February 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Sigh… what a beautiful post. The bit about running away (or probably just sulking) while wanting to be found (and hugged) is so, so true. And big people need hugs just as much as the kidlets.

  11. Renee
    Posted February 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful, beautiful post! It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing, as always.

  12. Posted February 11, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    truly lovely … and yes, I think it is, indeed, the question we are invariably asking … even when we are saying, “no, go away”

  13. elizabeth
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    This photo is precious- it should be framed, sitting on your nightstand so you never forget that feeling. Reading your post made me tear up….When my children run and hide I’m always stuck with what to do….and now I know. Thank you for sharing-

  14. Posted February 12, 2013 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    This so beautifully and succinctly spelled out something I’ve long felt but for which I never could find the right words. Thank you!

  15. Posted February 12, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

    That is incredibly profound, Andrea. Thank you.

  16. Posted February 12, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Andrea…I just want to take you in my arms and tell you…Momma loves YOU Andrea…this beautiful heart felt mother joy story touched me and my motherly side. Sending you a hug ((((((((( )))))))))). I think you need and deserve a hug.
    Kathleen <3

  17. L
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Sobbing over here. Oh My Andrea! N is doing the same exact thing!!! He says this to me daily and he now says it about his yoga teacher (she is a gift to us both!). I take a “mommy and me” yoga class w/ my little Noah and as we leave Noah says; “Lin loves N?” I say Yes and then he shakes his head and says w/ a big cheeky smile and a perfect lisp while shaking his head, “Yes”! S use to always say from the shopping cart as he leaned forward, “I just need a hug” with a big sigh. He runs in the other room now a days too and says, “Well, doesn’t anyone care about me?” I always come in and hug him too. He’s a serious six year old w/ a huge heart and a deep understanding of what is going on! Anyone in our family who does not know our boys are missing out on wonderful, on pure love and pure light! I’ve been sobbing for days, alone after everyone is in bed because my family (extended family)has hurt me so deeply it cuts to the bone. It’s been the hardest most painful thing to have to accept since the most beautiful wonderful thing ever happened to me, my and my husband’s babies. There are no words to describe the insanity of what they have put us through. I have been told to let go of them (our destructive extended family) to focus on the beauty and by do I! The hurt is there and their cruelty has been hard to understand. It’s been impossible to describe and frustrating and angering beyond words but everyone keeps telling us, they are who they are, it is what it is. When I’m sobbing about it all I hide when what I really want is a big hug and from the most loving people and to be heard and understood. Your words just allowed me to sob and get all this out. Thank you, Andrea. Your honesty and putting it out there is needed. Lots of love and hugs to you. xo -L

  18. Posted February 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink


  19. Nancy Guillery
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    As Oprah would say, “Everyone wants to be validated.” No matter who you are, how old you are everyone wants to feel loved and validated.

  20. Tracey (sparkyd)
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Oh. Yes. Love this. All of it.

  21. juli
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    you nailed it.

  22. Posted February 12, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes, and yes. All we need to know in life is that we are safe, we are adored, and all is well.

  23. Nancy Peevey
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Andrea, this is so beautiful! You are talking about validation, and saying, “I see you” with the hugs, etc. I can’t go back to when my children were young, but I can show them now at 34 and 31. We can show one another now! Thank you for letting your heart speak again! xoxo

  24. Sharon
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    So sweet! Everyone needs a hug, big or small. It can be a physical thing or just a compliment to someone having a hard day. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Maureen
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    Wow. The photograph and words with it were beautiful alone, your sentiments so true and so profound, the article very special to read. Thanks for what you share about yourself and letting us into your world.
    “I am learning, that when we are hurt, when we run away and hide, we really just want to BE FOUND.” I had to type it and hear it again. I was hurting last week, hiding big time, and then did run away from my support system when really I needed them so much. And hugs are so healing. If only I could have been direct and asked for what I needed. Because, yes, all I wanted was to be found, to be seen, to know I wasn’t alone, that people cared, and to be reassured I’m worth it and lovable. To know I matter. Your email couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect, fitting time. Thank you. and hugs to you and your shining lights. There are beautiful children.

  26. Posted February 13, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    thank you for this – beautiful and so true – even at 40 years old this is me.

    and i love arabella’s mention of hug tokens in the comments- so sweet

  27. isavoyage
    Posted February 13, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Yes, yes and yes! And beautifully written as always.

  28. Posted February 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully said. Sounds very similar to what Oprah said on the finale of her show. The underlying message underneath the surface of all the shows she’s done for 25 years is “I hear you, I see you and you matter.”

    Even when we attempt to push it away.

  29. Posted February 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes, yes. Andrea, that’s beautiful and so true.

  30. Posted February 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, that’s beautiful and so, so true. It made my day. Thank you.

  31. Posted February 14, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I know I always wanted to be found…

  32. Niki Samek
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    I love the relationship you have with your boys <3
    And the vulnerability of Ben asking if anyone will come hug him.
    Dave has asked me, "when you are inconsolable and I don’t know how to help you, what should I do?"
    And I answered, just come and hold me.

    Hugs are strong strong medicine and it is so great to hear your boys tuning in to finding their comfort so early.
    Well done mama A & Papa M.
    Love you!

  33. Erin
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Andrea, I adore you. Thanks for your genuineness and for showing up to be seen. Loved this post. In fact I loved sharing it with a women’s class/group I’m facilitating. Truly it is the question underneath. :) How wonderful to remember and to be generous with ourselves and each other. xoxo

  34. Posted February 17, 2013 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    Simply beautiful.

  35. Posted February 17, 2013 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    A perfect piece, Andrea. Aren’t your kids fabulous teachers?!

  36. Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    My heart just skipped a beat. sweet sweet words.

    Have you heard this quote?

    ‘It is a joy to be hidden, and disaster not to be found.’
    – Donald Woods Winnicott, child psychologist.


  37. Posted March 20, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    This is such a beautiful post Andrea! It’s so easy to forget that it’s important to remind those closest to us that they are loveable and they are loved, especially in times of hurt and frustration. Haven’t had my morning coffee yet but this definitely got my brain working :)

    Thank you :)

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