He has never been a touchy feely kind of kid.
As a toddler he pushed away as often as he reached out, as a school kid he doles out his hugs fiercely but selectively, and he has never liked kisses.
It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. If you give him time you will see how much he adores you. If you give him space he will reward you with long snugly conversations and hugs that are so forceful they literally knock the air out of you… but not kisses, never kisses.
He and I have an inside joke about cow kisses (licks on the cheek) and sometimes I bestow one on him if I know he is in a playful mood, but I know that he isn’t often in the mood, not even for his mother’s kisses, and I try to respect that.
It’s something others sometimes find hard to understand, especially when he was littler and he hadn’t perfected his death stare.
“Go on, give me a kiss!”
“Don’t you love me?”
“Just a little kiss!”
I know the requests are made with bags of love, I know there is no intent to be disrespectful or make anyone uncomfortable, and I know there are some deep-ceded generational ideas and expectations… but it makes my child feel pressured and uncomfortable and frustrated.
I’ve always told him to simply say ‘no thanks, I don’t like kisses’ or said it for him if he wasn’t able to.
Now that he is older I suggest that he offers some other form of affection that he is more comfortable with, a handshake, a hug, or a high five and a big smile. We try to explain in a polite manner and move on. Often that is enough, but sometimes people still persist.
I know they love him… but it is not ok.
When a child clearly states that they do not want to be touched, hugged, or kissed, I expect adults to respect that.
I want my children to know that ‘no means no’. I want them to know that when they say no, others will respect it. I also want my children to learn that when someone else says no, they need to respect that too… even if they don’t want to. I especially want to raise men who understand this.
I want my children to know that it is good to listen to their inner voice, and that it is ok to speak out, and say when things make them feel uncomfortable. I want them to know that they never have to blindly obey a request if they feel uncomfortable about it.
I want my children to know that they have control over their own bodies, and they get to say who can and can’t touch them.
It is hard to teach these things to my children when some adults, even with the best of intentions, and certainly not meaning to, send the opposite message.
So please, when a child says ‘no kisses!’ or ‘I don’t want to hug today’, or even just turns their head away… don’t take it personally, it’s not that they don’t love you, it’s just that they have a right to their personal space, and no means no whether you are 2, 6, 26, or 62.