First thing every morning, I lean into my son Henry’s hair and kiss him on his head. It’s pretty cool, because with that one mindless move I can smell his whole world. I smell the grass he was rolling in yesterday, maybe a hint of woodsmoke, some of his Grammy’s perfume. Some mornings, I catch a whiff of the microwave lasagne he had for dinner. I don’t know how it made it’s way up into his locks, really, but he’s three and I suppose that’s enough of an explanation right there.
I like smelling that stuff. It gets me high on love, helps me start my day off on a decent note despite my daily ten minutes of CNN beheadings over morning coffee and whatnot. It isn’t lost on me at all that were I not to kiss my son like I do every morning, and then later on in the day when he’s cranky and I need to carry him in from the car and set him down on the couch for a little Sponge Bob and orange juice, I’d be missing out on one of the best little things that has ever happened to me.
Still, there is a stigma attached to dads who kiss their sons. It may seem stupid on the surface, but not one of us can argue that here, in America, in 2014, there comes a time when grown men kissing their own sons just doesn’t fly.
Why the hell is that?
I’ve been pondering this question lately and I have to tell you, I don’t have the faintest idea about the answer. I just know that it eats at me that while so much of the world, so many countries and cultures, never think twice about a dad kissing his son, here in the USA we seem to put the kibosh on it by the time a kid is barely old enough to pee in the potty. I ask myself a lot of questions in regards to that. I can’t recall ever once seeing a grown man kiss his dad (except maybe at his deathbed) and the more I think about it, the more questions I have.
Is it a gay thing?
Are we way more homophobic than we want to admit? I hate to put that question out there, because I am a staunch advocate for gay rights and equality and I truly believe that each and every human being alive should be able to love whomever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want … end of story. Yet, I get this real sneaking suspicion that lots of Americans feel slightly uncomfortable or awkward if they see a father kiss a son who happens to be older than, say, nine or ten.
Or maybe it’s a case of unbridled masculinity? I mean, as much as we’re supposed to be a nation and a people at the forefront of acceptance and understanding, as much as we like to consider ourselves a pretty good role model for the rest of the world, maybe we’re not as open-minded and progressive as we pretend to be. I, for one, would actually dig seeing someone prominent, someone like, say, that dad from Duck Dynasty, pull one of his boys in tight and smile his big ol’ country smile as he plants a little peck on his best bud’s bearded cheek.
But it ain’t never gonna happen, and we both know it.
They can pray together. They can hunt and dine and live and love together, a marketable microcosm of real family values in modern America. But I wonder what would happen if those good ‘ol boys just kissed each other hello now and then? My guess is a lot of people across this great land would lose their camouflaged minds.
I might be wrong, of course.
But then again, I’m not wrong now, am I?
Of course, when a daddy stops kissing his son at a young age, no matter what the reason may be, there is little chance in hell that that son is going to grow up to be the kind of man who isn’t ashamed or self-conscious about kissing his own son when he’s older than a tee-baller. And so the snowball rolls; unconscious and ingrained, the tradition is perpetuated.
Yeah, you could easily make the argument that it doesn’t really matter anyway, I guess. It’s not as if we’ve grown endless crops of useless or damaged men here in the United States because young boys were suddenly denied their daddy’s kisses. I’m not foolish enough to claim anything like that. What I DO ask is this: if so many dads around the world feel perfectly comfortable planting one on their son’s cheek, forehead, or even their lips when they see each other, then what exactly is our inner-American voice whispering to us at some point in our own children’s’ lives that causes us to say, “Alright. That’s it. Enough is enough. We don’t need to be kissing like that anymore”?
Screw it. I might not stop. But then again, I might not have much choice in the matter either. Chances are that once Henry, 3, and Charlie, 7 months, get a little older, they’re going to understand perfectly well that none of the other dads and sons are kissing. Not here or there. Not ever. Except by the side of a sick bed, when time is short, when one final goodbye is all you’ve really got left.
If that’s the case, if my sons don’t want to kiss me or want me kissing them as we grow older side-by-side, I know that’ll be the end of that.
But, I’m going to miss the feeling. I really, really am. I’m going to miss this feeling I’ve been feeling so many times a day for a while now, this feeling of pride and protection and unstoppable, overwhelming love I feel down in the very roots of my bones every damn time I pull one of my guys into my chest and breathe ’em in deep and swiftly kiss their dirty hair just so I can remind myself that all of this is real.
Just to remind me, you know, that our love was not a dream.
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