mother kissing child

In our home…

Toby is eight and Anton is five, and I still smooch them on the mouth. I kiss their hands, their foreheads, the perfect curve where their cheeks meet their noses. As a toddler, whenever Anton slept in our bed, all sweaty and kicky, he would wake me up in the morning by kissing little pecks up my arm. (The sweetest!) And there’s no feeling I love more than walking down the sidewalk, extending my hand back and feeling a tiny hand reach up and grab it.

But I’m curious about others?

My friend, Sammy, who has two young daughters, recently sent me this email: “During my 2 a.m. insomnia, with Edie snoring in our room, I was thinking about the intimacy between parents and kids. My own practices, really, of kissing them on the lips, bathing together, rubbing bums together in the shower while listening to Bollywood music. I certainly didn’t do this with my mom when I was 4 or 7. I’ve learned more about the importance of touch as a parent than as a young adult navigating the world of grown-up relationships. It got me thinking about the taboos around intimacy with our children and how some people think kissing your child on the lips or bathing together is inappropriate after a certain age. That’s it, that’s all I have to say!”

Where do you fall on the spectrum of physical touch with your children?

Of course, I will always follow their lead and be sure they’re comfortable with kisses, hugs and hand-holding. (They’re the bosses of their bodies!) Have you heard this beautiful, beautiful passage from the book Little Fires Everywhere?

“Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. As a baby Pearl had clung to her; she’d worn Pearl in a sling because whenever she’d set her down, Pearl would cry. There’d scarcely been a moment in the day when they had not been pressed together. As she got older, Pearl would still cling to her mother’s leg, then her waist, then her hand, as if there was something in her mother she needed to absorb through the skin. Even when she had her own bed, she would often crawl into Mia’s in the middle of the night and burrow under the old patchwork quilt, and in the morning they would wake up tangled, Mia’s arm pinned beneath Pearl’s head, or Pearl’s legs thrown across Mia’s belly. Now, as a teenager, Pearl’s caresses had become rare — a peck on the cheek, a one-armed, half-hearted hug — and all the more precious because of that. It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

P.S. Naked babies at the beach, and who get the best kisses?

(Photo by Alain. Little Fires Everywhere excerpt from a reader named Nancy.)