Sunday 16 June 2019

I stopped kissing my sons after the David Beckham ‘outrage’. Do they even care?

I’m a kissy, cuddly dad. But I don’t want to embarrass my boys

My childhood memories are filled with hugs and kisses from both my mum and dad. My mum has a thing about kissing you an odd number of times: if she kisses you once, all good, but if she kisses you twice, then you know another one has to follow and, weirdly, she tends to go for the forehead. I remember seeing my wife receive the treble on first meeting her, and looking utterly confused. It’s as if you’ve just been given the signal that you’re going to be offed by the Mafia.

As a young child, I loved the hugs and kisses, but I also remember getting to the age when they no longer felt OK. My parents would kiss me when they dropped me off at school, which was obviously embarrassing because having loving parents makes you a social pariah. My mum carried on, but one day my dad just stopped. He never made a thing of it. It just didn’t happen any more. In fact, I forgot that he had ever kissed his children until my first son was born, and he unleashed the kisses once more. Seeing him kiss my children made me feel bad that I had ever been embarrassed by him – even more so after he passed away.

This upbringing has led me to be a kissy, cuddly dad. I am constantly hugging and kissing our boys, who are nine, seven and four. Then my friend told me that he doesn’t kiss his son because he thinks it isn’t the done thing. I, of course, freaked out. Oh God, I’ve messed up the kids, permanently! I am never going to kiss or hug them again. I will find them and apologise with nothing more than a shake of the hand. I became worried about the politics of all this. After David Beckham posted a picture of himself kissing his daughter, Harper, and Piers Morgan dusted off his fake outrage again, I went online to see what people’s general take on kissing children was. I discovered that a lot of dads kiss their sons. Relief. But hold on – a lot of them choose not to do it in public, for fear of being judged.

 ‘I became worried after David Beckham posted this picture.’ Photographs: Rex/Shutterstock; Getty Images
This finding was backed up by lots of blogs claiming that people have no problem with mothers kissing their kids, but find it distasteful to see fathers kissing their sons. Why is this more offensive? Does it awaken some sort of latent homophobia? Is it because men are more likely to be sex offenders? The ultimate sin seems to be kissing your sons on the lips, which again, I do.

So, against my better judgment, I stopped kissing my boys in public. As I write, I worry that you are judging me for having ever done it. The part that makes this super-weird is that I now save kisses for when we’re at home, like a sordid secret we have to keep behind closed doors. It’s not that I’m embarrassed; it’s just that I don’t want my sons to be shamed by me taking a stand with my public kissing. This is not their fight and I show them enough affection that they know they are loved.

Two weeks have passed and I am a little put out by the fact that they do not seem to have noticed. They do if I leave for work without hugs and kisses, but they couldn’t care less when we’re out and about or going to school. In my head, one of them should turn to me and say, “Daddy, ignore the haters and hug and kiss us, please!” That hasn’t happened. So, as a punishment, I have decided to start kissing them again.

(Source: The Guardian)

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