Scrolling through Facebook the other day, a “trending” news item in the upper right corner of my screen caught my eye. Apparently, a photo of Victoria Beckham giving her 5-year-old daughter a kiss while swimming on vacation had sparked some sort of controversy.
My first thoughts included: Was Victoria topless, holding a cigarette or wearing (gasp!) non-designer sunglasses at the time? Turns out, none of these things. Instead, the “controversy” stemmed from the fact that the mother-daughter kiss captured on camera was a kiss on the lips.
Now, let’s be clear that further reading revealed this storm to be little more than a tempest in a teapot—a smattering of negative comments left on Beckham’s Instagram page after she shared the image, expressing discomfort over a mouth kiss between parent and child. (The vast majority of the more than 5,000 responses to the photo were positive.)
But it did prompt a number of respected news outlets to raise the question: Is it okay to kiss your child on the mouth?
Since having kids, I have found that few things rile me up more than what I see as completely idiotic “debates” over parenting styles and choices. This is one of those debates. Consider me riled.
First of all, the kiss in question couldn’t appear more pure and innocent: a brief, completely closed-lip pucker as the sun reflects off the water around an admittedly gorgeous mother and child. I may not look like Victoria Beckham, but similar displays of affection take place frequently between myself and my son (age 3) and daughter (age 2). They also take place between my husband and my kids, between my kids themselves, and between my husband and me when the kids are around (hopefully our kisses when we’re alone are a bit less chaste, but hey, we’ve been married a long time).
To paraphrase a bit of parenting wisdom that many of us have heard before: I don’t think any parent has ever looked back and thought, “I wish I had been less affectionate with my child.” Soon enough—and it varies with every kid—we moms and dads will be greeted with an eye roll, an “ew!” or a jerk of the head when we try to go in for a kiss, mouth or cheek. On that day, I will probably shed more than a few tears off in a corner somewhere.
But until that day, I will continue to display affection toward both of my kids in a way that feels natural to us. That might be a peck on the lips, it might be a huge, body-enveloping hug, or it might be a tickle of two squirmy little feet. If any of those things strikes you as creepy, I’ll try to take a deep breath, say let’s agree to disagree, and leave it at that.
In response to the naysayers, many of Beckham’s fans showed their support on Twitter by posting images of themselves kissing their kids on the lips. Each photo I’ve seen is utterly adorable and brings a smile to my face. I’ve also found myself humming the famous first line of “As Time Goes By,” from Casablanca: You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss…