Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Forcing Kids To Hug and Kiss People...Why I say NO

I don't know if anyone else remembers being a kid and having your parents tell you "OK! KISS SO-AND-SO GOODBYE!" and we did, because that is what we were supposed to do, and we didn't want to upset our parents or whatever relative that was. And we hated it. At least I did. It made me feel so uncomfortable deep down in my soul to have to force physical affection when I knew I didn't want to. But I did it rather than give my parents or whatever relative that was any kind of an issue. I didn't want to offend anyone. I didn't want to upset anyone. It would be over quick, right? Just get it over with.

The more I think about that reaction that I had, the less and less I want my own daughter to have to go through that.

In adulthood, we are told that our bodies are our responsibility. That we ourselves are in charge of what happens. What affection we give and receive is up to us, they say. In a world overrun with the debate about "Rape Culture" and who is at fault in an accused sexual assault, why are we teaching our kids that they have to provide physical forms of affection to anyone they don't want to?

For some time now, I have thought maybe I was looking too hard into this issue. Maybe it's not a big deal. But it IS a big deal. It's a huge deal. Kissing is an intimate act. Eventually in their lives, it will be something that they use to convey their own very personal affections to another person. It will be the start of an intimate relationship. It's a sign of friendship. It's a sign of love. It's something that no one should be forced to do when they don't want to, and especially to someone they don't want to. I want my daughter to grow up confident and in control of her body and her mind and I cannot with good conscience think that and then in the next breath, tell her to kiss someone.

Puppy smooches are ok

A lot of people don't think this is a big deal. The response I tend to get when this discussion is brought up is, "Well, I did it. I'm fine." or "Do you want to offend (insert relative here)?" I don't want to offend anyone, but more than that, I don't want to force my daughter to kiss anyone. I don't want to teach her that her affections, especially of the physical variety, are something to be commanded from her.

My feeling as a child was that it would be over quick, so get it over with. I think hard about that reaction. It goes deep. I then think about my daughter as a teenager. Peer pressures. Some boy who says she should kiss him, or do something else. Will she feel she should do it so as not to offend him? So as not to upset him? It will be over quick, so get it over with. Yes. That is exactly what I feel I am teaching her by forcing her to kiss people she doesn't want to now, as a child.

My son is now eleven years old, going on twelve. When he was a toddler, I used to tell him "Give so and so a kiss goodbye!" and I could see in his face it made him uncomfortable. I didn't care who it offended. I stopped. I never made him do it again. Nowadays, he hugs who he wants to. He gives a pound. He is NEVER rude, always kind, and he never has to kiss anyone. When I pick him up from his grandparents, I remind him to tell his grandparents goodbye, but I never tell him to kiss anyone. I won't. I refuse.

It's important to me that in today's world of blurred lines regarding physical affections to make sure my kids know that their body is THEIR BODY. No one else's. No one can force them to use their body in a way that makes them uncomfortable. They do not EVER have to allow that from anyone. In most cases of sexual abuse, the abuser is familiar. Family. An older friend. Counselor. Clergy. Neighbor. These are the same types of people we force our kids to kiss goodbye. In my mind, how can I teach my kids not to allow someone familiar to touch them in inappropriate ways if I am telling them to provide affection to familiar people when they don't want to? This doesn't make sense, and yet so many of us were taught it was ok.

Someday, my kids will choose love. They will have someone on which they can lavish their affections. They will know then how wonderful it is to have those intimate moments and what they can really mean. Until that happens, on their terms, I refuse to tell them they have to. Even just a peck on the cheek. No. The answer is NO.

So when my kids are visiting someone and it's time to go, you will not hear me tell them to kiss anyone goodbye. Ever. I don't care who it offends. If they want to, they are free to do so, but that is their choice and not my command. They are the masters of their own bodies, and I want it to stay that way.

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