So lately there’s been a flurry of on-line activity on an attachment parenting forum that I follow around the issue of children kissing on their parents on the lips as a sign of affection. Most people are of the opinion that this is a personal choice that each family has the right to make and that the family should act according to its family rules, values, traditions and beliefs. To me this is the obvious response given that no one family is in a position to tell another family how to act or behave, or what is right or wrong.
One mother’s answer, however, resonated with me quite strongly. She stated the following:
“I have been thinking about this for 3-4 days now before I responded, trying to be sensitive to other cultures and other ideas. I have thought it over, but in the end, I am just plain sad. I can’t say it any other way. I am sad and disappointed that other kids can’t kiss their parents on the lips if they really want to. This seems VERY awkward to me. WHY is this not ok? How is this so different than the cheek? Really analyze that…cheek vs. lips…why does it matter?
What I worry about is that the kid gets to see you freely kissing your partner/spouse on the lips, but they are forbidden from doing so. Thus, for me, this translates into “You, young child are something different, you must NOT kiss me on the lips, you don’t deserve it, you are not worthy, it is some kind of special something reserved for ______. Reserved for WHAT??? For me, this feels essentially that this kissing on the lips action (in a child’s mind) is BAD.
So, kids can’t achieve this worthiness until they are mature…dare I day “sexually ready”? What kind of signal does THAT send? I don’t want to equate romantic kissing with sexual readiness. I think exploring is good and healthy…if my girls can’t be comfortable here with us, where CAN they be comfortable to explore?
I get that this is a culturally relevant issue. I live in a white, American culture that is rather stuffy and we work hard to overcome that. Maybe too much so. I don’t know. What I do know is that we kiss our kids freely on the lips every day and they do so to us without hesitation and we don’t want that to change that at all.”
I thought that this was a balanced perspective which brings in the idea that the EuroAmerican culture traditionally eschews physical affection and physical touch creating a forbidden fruit type of culture. The idea of the naked body in the U.S. is much more taboo compared to other cultures to the point that we cover our children up long before children in other countries are expected to wear bathing suits in public. Isn’t it healthy for children to be able to run around without clothes and to normalize the naked body? By covering our children up so young, the naked body is over sexualized and glimpsing a naked breast is equated to the consumption of pornography. (This ties in, of course, with the current issue of women breastfeeding in public.)
As a woman who grew up without ever seeing her parents kiss in public and showing very little physical affection, I find it comforting to know that other families are also trying to change the generational taboo of physical affection and touch. Granted, I realize that in certain cultures, such as the Muslim culture, this may not be an acceptable practice; however, I am not raising my child in a Muslim culture. I am raising her here, in the U.S., in a different country with its own level of conservative beliefs and I will continue to foster a sense of comfort with love, touch, affection and kissing on the lips, as long as she is comfortable with this act.
Many thanks to the mom from the forum who granted me permission to quote her post. It takes a village to educate a nation.