The fact that soccer star and international hottie David Beckham made news again isn’t surprising. But what exactly landed him in the headlines: Kissing his 5-year-old daughter Harper. On the lips. Oh the horror!
Beckham posted the sweet snap to Instagram, showing him and his little girl sharing an innocent peck in front of a sunset on their recent vacation. Because parents can’t do anything these days without drawing fire, critics roasted the doting dad by calling the daddy-daughter lip-kiss “weird,” “gross,” and “inappropriate.” Which… did you see the picture? If that doesn’t make you go all mushy inside and coo at your screen then I’d argue that maybe you’re the weird one.
Full disclosure: I have a daughter almost exactly the same age as Harper and I still kiss her on the lips. Let me tell you, kissing my little ones—whether it’s on their tiny fingers, sleeping eyelids, chubby cheeks, scraped knees, or rosebud lips—is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. And after all the puke, poop, and supermarket humiliations parents put up with, we deserve every moment of innocent childhood joy.
Even though I find it strange that anyone would sexualize a sweet peck between parent and child, America has a long history of telling parents it’s wrong to kiss their kiddos. In the 1928 childcare manual Psychological Care of the Infant and Child, behaviorist John Watson told mothers to be “sensible” in how they interact with their babies. “Never hug and kiss them or let them sit on your lap. Shake hands with them in the morning. Give them a pat on the head if they have made an extraordinary good job of a difficult task,” he wrote. “If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight.” He wants you to shake hands with your toddler? Had he even met a mother?
You’d think we’d be past that strangely sterile advice, yet just recently Dr. Charlotte Reznick, author of The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety Into Joy and Success, warned that because the mouth is an erogenous zone which “can be stimulating,” parents should avoid kissing their little cherubs on the lips. “It might cause a child to think, ‘If Mommy kisses Daddy on the mouth and vice versa, what does that mean, when I, a little girl or boy, kiss my parents on the mouth?'”
It’s this weird need of adults to call this sexual that is exactly what is wrong with how we view little girls these days. Instead of seeing them as babies, toddlers, and little girls, they’re only seen as soon-to-be sexual beings. Sexualizing little girls is a serious problem these days—but it isn’t giving your kid a peck on the lips that does it. Perhaps people should save the outrage for provocatively dressed dolls, sassy TV shows aimed at preschoolers, and a whole culture that tells women our only currency is our sex appeal.
Ironically this isn’t the first time the Beckhams have been criticized for lip-kissing their kids. Just a year ago, Victoria Beckham posted a nearly identical snap of her smooching her baby girl and people freaked out about that too. Maybe they’re just trolling us now? But honestly I think they’re just enjoying their baby girl. Like the Beckhams, my daughter is the youngest of four, with three older brothers. And similarly my boys are all growing up very quickly because that’s what kids do. Just like they outgrew Pokemon cards and stuffed animals, they outgrew lip-kisses from their mom. I can’t remember the last time I kissed any of them other than a quick peck on their head at night and I’m fine with that. They don’t need the same physical affection from me now that they did when they were younger. But my daughter does—and I’m going to cherish it because I know how fast it’s gone.
Love your littles, moms and dads. There’s nothing purer in the world than those sticky hugs, warms sighs, and sweet kisses—especially the innocent pecks on the lips.
Don’t miss the story of the man who witnessed “the kiss”—the one between the sailor and the nurse in Times Square in 1945 that became so famous.