A few years ago, before I had kids, I went to the wedding of some friends. The couple had met in Charleston, West Virginia, where we all lived, but the groom was from somewhere else. As such, prior to the wedding day, he was the only member of his family that I knew.
During the course of the reception and after party, I got a good feeling of these people. All evidence was that they were strong in their union and vibrant in their celebration. Watching them put me in mind of the Carl Sandburg poem “Happiness.” Sure, they might have a piper to pay in the morning, but they were loving the now for all it was worth, and nobody can say definitively if that trade-off isn’t worth it in the long run.
The groom’s parents weren’t willing to party as far into the wee hours as the rest of us, and during their good-byes I saw something that would have an impact on the father I’ve become. The groom’s father took his newly-married son’s face in his hands and planted a kiss on his lips.
I found it to be an amazing gesture. I could imagine that it might seem a little much for some people, given the world that we apparently live in these days, but I saw it as nothing more than a pure and unabashed display of love from a father to a son.
I could imagine small-minded people making something more than that of it.Whisperings and innuendo of abuse came to mind, but I thought it evidence of the exact opposite of those things. To me, it showed a family that was close enough and that loved each other enough to show such love without worrying how it looked. Abusers wouldn’t display their love so easily, and the children of abuse wouldn’t be as casual and willing to accept such display.
I told the younger man’s new bride how impressed I was by the display. I said that if I ever had children, that was going to be a practice I took part in.
I kept my word. My wife and I say goodbye to our sons many times each week, and each time we do so with a kiss on the lips. We do this without thought, but with plenty of feeling. It’s a bit of nothing, but it’s everything.
I say it’s a bit of nothing because we don’t think anything of it; it’s just what we do. There’s no deal to it. It’s just our thing and each of us knows that the act speaks of the love that we all have for each other.
I don’t think we’d be able to do this so casually and unabashedly if there were some sort of abuse within the family. That would make it a thing, but it’s not a thing; it’s just a thing.
Then, today in the headlines, those potential small-minded people have proven to be real. Victoria Beckham, who is married to international soccer legend David Beckham and who was once a Spice Girl, is being bashed for putting a picture on Instagram of her and her five year-old daughter kissing on the lips. The picture is part of a birthday card, of sorts, to the daughter. The message ends with “kisses from mummy.”
And now she’s getting all kinds of flack because it’s “disgusting” and “inappropriate.”
There’s nothing to draw this out. While I feel it is a pure expression of love to kiss my kids on the lips, I can see why it’s not for everybody. The same can be said for every aspect of our lives. Everything about all of our lives is not for everybody. All day, every day, we all do things that would make someone go”Hmmm.”
Those of us who live in polite society say something like “Well, isn’t that interesting” or “Now, that’s a bit odd,” and then we go on with our lives. We remember what our mothers told us: “Different strokes for different folks,” and we leave it at that. Those who live elsewhere have to make it their business and act like it is wrong, simply because it isn’t something their accustomed to. The Internet has made the world smaller for us, but it’s still a pretty big place, and it’s full of lots of different people.
So, you go, Victoria Beckham; kiss your kids on the lips if you want to. The rest of you, or those talking trash about the woman at least, if it ain’t your cup of tea, you ain’t gotta drink it.