When my girl was little, she enjoyed my parental displays of affection. She would giggle with delight when I smothered her with kisses all over her head, her hands, her tummy and her little lips. Like many families do, we said hello, goodbye, good morning and goodnight with kisses. But unlike some, our kisses were often applied directly to the lips.
I think giving a child a peck on the mouth is a perfectly natural way to express love. But based on a letter received by advice columnist Margot Howard, not everyone agrees. An anonymous woman, who signed her letter “Want My Husband’s Lips for Myself,” finds her husband’s habit of kissing his 5-year-old daughter on the mouth to be “a sexual gesture and very inappropriate.”
It is worth noting that the letter-writer is not the biological parent of the daughter being kissed. She’s a stepmother and it seems to me that she’s threatened by the affection her new husband feels for his daughter. Or is the problem one of gender? Is a dad kissing his daughter on the lips perceived differently than a mother doing the same thing?
I never gave parents kissing children on the lips much thought until I saw Barack Obama doing it with his daughters during the 2008 presidential campaign. The gesture caught my attention for two reasons. First, I realized that I don’t see many dads expressing affection in this way and I thought it was sweet. Also, I couldn’t believe that at the ages of 10 and 7, Sasha and Malia were letting him kiss them in public.
Somewhere around the age of five, my own girl began turning her cheek when I leaned in for a smack. This was her way of saying she no longer wanted to be kissed on the lips and I respected that. These days, I am lucky to be offered the top of her head when I try to kiss her.
Do you kiss your children on the lips?
Image: DigiSmile STC/Flickr