Tammy Sutherland, mom of two, (wife of James Broadley, below)
I remember the moment I realized that I could kiss my first baby girl, Violet. It was a couple of hours after she was born, when everything was finally quiet, and the thought caught me by surprise. It seemed too intimate an act to share with the wee person who still felt like a bit of a stranger. I think it was the first time I truly understood that she was mine to keep. I started with a tiny peck on her head, but as the reality of this new love washed over me, I went in for a full on kiss on her teeny tiny mouth.
Since that day, I will give (and take!) any kisses I can get from Violet, now four years old, and her little sister June, who’s two. The best ones are when we smooch mouth to mouth. That delicious moment when we lock eyes, their chubby little hands planted on my cheeks, and I bask in the warm familiarity of having them close to me. They have both been in daycare since their first birthdays, so I’ve had to get used to the smell of other women’s perfume on their sweet little heads. And while I’m grateful for all the hugs and affection these caregivers bestow upon my daughters, I’m also a bit jealous. Greedily, I want the cuddles all to myself. So I hold on to those full-lip kisses that are just ours alone.
Even when they are sick and drippy and sad, I still can’t stop myself from kissing their germy little pouts. In those moments they need me more than ever and I want to show them that the love we share is unconditional. I would rather risk catching their colds than miss out on a single peck. Germs be damned!
I can hear the clock ticking as I watch them outgrow their bottles, their cribs, their never-ending need for comfort. I mourn the words they no longer mispronounce and the new-walker waddle they no longer have. I know that daily kisses have a shelf life—especially lip kisses—and I can’t bear to waste a single opportunity to pucker up.
James Broadley, dad of two, (husband of Tammy Sutherland, above)
“I’m going to kiss you on the cheek because I have a cold right now.” These words recently fell from the lips of Tammy, my lovely wife, as she explained to our four-year-old, Violet, why Mommy’s usual display of affection was being re-routed away from her lips. Tammy had been under the weather but she wasn’t our family’s patient zero. Our transmission vector June brought the latest round of microbe-madness home from daycare. Caution tossed to the wind, Tammy had continued to “muah” June square on the gob, as is her custom, but at least she didn’t want to also pass it on to our elder kid.
I’m not a doctor, nor a germaphobe , but to me, lip-to-lip contact is a surefire way to pass on whatever ugly bugs are lying in wait for a new, warm host. It’s been said that kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray, so what’s the equivalent of kissing a toddler? I’d say sucking on a petri dish.
But it goes both ways. Why would I expose my kids to whatever I might have picked up? Better to be safe than sniffly.
Aside from the epidemiology, prior to having kids of my own, parents and children kissing on the lips always gave me a little frisson of... ew. Ever since I was a kid myself, lip-on-lip action was something for adults only, be it a mundane smack, or the Roger Moore 007-style lip-locks that pop culture fed me. It had undertones of forbidden behaviour, of romance. Or maybe it’s because I grew up in a house of cheek-kissers.
During my daily drop-off ritual with Violet, before we part ways I always ask: “What’s next?” and she answers, “A big hug and kiss!” But it’s always on the cheek. In writing this, I’ve considered that maybe I’m missing out. Maybe I’ve got some immature hang-up that I’ve never grown past. Am I denying some deeper connection with my children if I don’t kiss them on the lips?
A version of this article appeared in our May 2015 issue with the headline, "Do you kiss your kids on the lips?,” p.104.