A lovely friend of mine posted something on Facebook the other day, which then led to a rather surprising discussion. I’m bringing it here, because I found it so odd, so left field, that I had never given it a moment’s thought:
There was a discussion on a forum awhile back about whether or not parents kiss their kids on the lips. I was shocked by how many mothers reacted in disgust saying things like, “No! My lips are for my husband only!” as if kissing on the lips was a purely romantic thing. But I got to thinking that if you weren’t raised kissing your own parents on your lips, then you probably wouldn’t do the same with your own kids. Fair enough, I guess. I always kissed my parents on the lips (I still kiss my mom on the lips and I’m 33 now and still don’t think it’s weird) and I love when our daughter gives me a big kiss on the lips. Thoughts?
My first reaction was: Some parents don’t kiss their kids on the lips?
And the second one was: And some people romanticize the act of kissing to the point of exclusion?
Interestingly, my friend’s comments back on her post were about 70% do kiss their kids on the lips, 30% don’t. It’s not just the statistics on the forum then, some parents just aren’t behind it. And further, those that don’t kiss their kids on the lips were also (largely) not kissed on the lips themselves as kids. The author’s comment is the direction that Melissa went when I mentioned the Facebook dialogue – “If their parents don’t kiss them on the lips, then they will grow up and not kiss their kids, either.”
Every family is different, and I have to be clear that I understand every family has to do what’s right for them. I’m not having a go at parents and families who do not believe in kissing their kids on the lips. For us, we pucker up with the twins in this house. Good mornings kisses, picking-them-up-from-nursery-kisses, I’m-so-happy-with-you-kisses, and the ever-important goodnight kisses – all on the lips (and foreheads, and cheeks, and noses, and ears (particularly when you want to make them shriek with laughter)). It had never entered my mind for a second not to kiss them. I mean yes, of course, kisses are demonstrations of romance. But like there are many varieties of Coca Cola, there are different varieties of kisses. It need not be one fizzy lifting drink fits all, nor do all kisses have the same intention or subtext.
And I was thinking about how maybe it does have to do with how I/we/you were raised, only then I wasn’t sure.
Think about the household you were raised. First off, when you were a kid did your parents kiss you on the lips? Mine did, it was never even remotely weird or had a negative or romantic connotation. We were a very huggly/cuddly household growing up, and my household now is – you can’t sit on the sofa without a little person coming and popping themselves down on your lap/under your arm. My grandparents also kissed us, and again it was equally never anything other than a salutation accompanied by a hug. So my childhood echoes the twins’ childhoods.
But some similarities end – my father used to walk around in his underpants and my mother was regularly completely starkers, a pattern which – surprisingly – is how Alastair’s childhood was (I say surprisingly as I don’t think I know people less inclined to show pale flesh than those two). As an adult I would never walk around the house in my lingerie, nor would I even debate for a moment the option of sitting down and watching TV without a stitch on. It’s not a romantic or sexual issue for me, it’s a modesty one – I like to be covered up. All the time. That said, I do sleep without pajamas and will go hurtling down the hallway to the twins’ bedroom if they wake up from a nightmare and shout for me. I will equally have no problem sharing a changing room with them post-swimming session, and will shower them with me sometimes. Alastair is the same. We don’t associate nudity with shame, we just don’t personally love being without clothing. We don’t discourage the twins from streaking around the house, which they absolutely love to do. Each to their own and all. If “their own” is the definition, then the twins will grow up to kiss on the lips and to be as finely attired as the jaybird in their adulthood. Maybe modesty skips a generation.
I wonder how much of how we interact with our kids on this emotional closeness level has to do with how our childhoods were, what we were exposed to and what was ok/not ok. I think I’m just surprised that kissing on the lips is viewed by some a purely a couple/romantic gesture, when of course I know that is one function of it, but that for me it has other functions.
You? Ok or not ok?
PS – as ever, back up on In The Powder Room, this time fairly annoyed with Time Magazine.