Did you breast or bottle feed your child? Did you circumcise, or no? Co-sleep or in their own crib from day one? Now that your child is older, do you homeschool, or does your child go a private or public school?
These are questions often discussed in parenting circles—both in-person and online—and everyone has an opinion on these topics. But the thing is, what’s best for my kid may not be what’s best for your kid. And that’s okay. Or so I thought.
The hottest parenting debate right now—besides vaccines, of course—is whether or not it’s okay to kiss your kid. Yes, you read that correctly. I wish I were kidding, but the Internet tells me it’s true. And the one token of affection that can get people really fired up? Whether or not it’s okay to pucker up with your kid, lip to lip.
I’m going to cut to the chase here. IDGAF what parenting choices you make, as long as you aren’t being abusive or negligent. But apparently my opinion isn’t so popular—because people have big feelings about family members choosing to smooch.
When Victoria Beckham posted a pic on Insta of her kissing her then five-year-old daughter Harper on the lips, the clapback was astounding. She was called a child abuser and a molester for posting a “suggestive” and “romantic” picture. When Olivia Wilde did the same—posting a pic of a sweet smooch between her and her three-year-old son Otis—she was met with a wave of negativity. Some said it was gross to kiss her child like she would kiss her husband. OMG, folks. Stop it. You are the ones making it gross, not these parents.
Celeb moms are not alone either. Hilary Duff, Gabrielle Union, David Beckham, Tom Brady, and Jessica Alba have all received flack for their parent-kid love. Some have chosen to respond, essentially telling the Internet to piss off. While others have chosen silence—which is, after all, among the most powerful of responses to ridiculous criticism.
I’m not shocked that people are jerks to parents, especially online. I mean if people get all up in arms about Chrissy Teigen for going to dinner with John sans kids, and Jason Momoa’s dad bod, then they certainly are going to nit-pick the way parents express their affection with their kids. Because of course they are. Some people just can’t stand to see others show love and affection, apparently.
Listen, I get that we each have our own affection meter. There’s nothing wrong with being the family that doesn’t kiss or hug. If arms around your shoulders or a peck on the cheek doesn’t feel comfortable to you, that’s okay and your boundaries should be respected. Along the same lines, there’s also nothing wrong with being the family who bear-hugs, holds hands, or leaves a lipstick mark on a cubby little cheek.
And before you talk to me about germs, I understand. Nobody should be kissing a baby. With their not-yet-developed immune systems, infections and viruses can be serious — and even deadly — for babies. No one wants that. No one.
Aside from that, you can keep your germs and your opinion to yourself. Because in this house, we kiss. Most of my kids are affectionate. My toddler will flip her lid if we don’t give her a kiss and about 27 hugs before we part ways. My son is the most affectionate—preferring bear hugs, kisses, and lots of love talk. Just the other day he told me that his heart wanted to marry my heart. I know, I totally melted.
In our home, all of the kids hug or kiss each other good night, they cuddle on the couch watching movies on Friday nights–covered in blankets and sharing popcorn, and they also are sure to offer a goodbye hug when they have to split up for activities. Physical affection is just one of the ways we choose to show each other that we care and love deeply—that our kids matter and that they can find security in one another. And I don’t want or need your opinions on the matter.
Of course, kids can totally decide if and when they want to offer a hug or kiss. We don’t force our kids to be affectionate with anyone—not relatives, friends, or each other—and we’ve taught them that “no means no.” Their bodies belong to them, and that includes affection for parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, everyone. Full stop.
The other important topic that comes up during consent and my-body-is-mine conversations? There is nothing wrong with offering affection to those you love, as long as the receiver is also cool with the affection-of-choice. And if someone doesn’t like to be touched, that’s okay. We embrace that too (pun intended). Fist bumps, high fives, or winks are all appropriate too.
Preferences aside, it’s beyond me why anyone would spend their precious time and energy telling other parents what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their children, regardless of the topic. Yes, there are important parenting conundrums. Yes, sometimes parents seek advice from more experienced moms and dads. There are choices that impact us all (cough, vaccines, cough). But to-kiss-or-not-to-kiss is not one of those critical topics. I think we can all agree the world could use a little more love, after all.