It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Maybe I am too squeamish for this job

Parents kissing their children on the mouth.

I have to admit, this skeeves me out. Lip-to-lip kissing, to my mind, is something shared between lovers. Period.

Now, I didn’t get this prejudice from my family of origin. I have very clear childhood memories of good-night kisses, me in my nightie, teeth brushed and ready for bed, doing the circle of adults in the living room. A kiss for Granny and Grandad, then mum would take me to bed, and another kiss for her before the lights went out. And all the kisses were the same: you puckered your lips, pushing them as far out from your face as possible. The other person did likewise and you sort of bounced them off each other, Pwuff! Nice and dry and soft. That is a kiss between adult and child.

And when we got older, adult-child lip-to-lip kisses ceased. I don’t really remember when, but they certainly weren’t happening when I was a teen. But when I was a little girl, it was just normal, and I liked the nightly good-night kiss tradition. It’s a happy childhood memory for me, so I’m not sure where my antipathy to adult-child kissing comes from.

Once, an uncle came to visit. I was about nine. He kissed me, and — his lips were kind of open! and they were wet!! I was completely grossed out. Too tactful, even at age nine, to scrub my lips in his presence, I scrubbed vigorously when I was out of the room. My mother was sympathetic to me and disapproving of her brother. “That’s not how you kiss a child,” she tutted. I never had to kiss him again.

(For the record: my uncle had no nasty tendencies re: his nieces. Nothing like that at all. He was just a sloppy kisser.)

But as for me? I’ve never kissed my children (or anyone else’s) on the lips. I recoil at the thought. When I see other parents kiss their children on the lips, I look away. Lip-to-lip kissing in intimate, too intimate for an audience. And between adult and child? It just doesn’t feel right. Yurgh.

Timmy is very affectionate with his mother, and she with him. These two adore each other. She takes such pleasure in him, it’s a delight to watch. When she comes in at the end of the day, their faces could light a room.

She has always kissed him — on the lips — when she greets him. One kiss, during which I tend to another child, or look at the back of his head, or scratch my foot, or something. Lately, Timmy has taken to kissing her back. Which she greets with adoring laughter. Or he initiates the kiss. The affection is wondrous to behold. Every parent loves their child; every child loves their parents, but these two take a degree of delight in their exchanges you don’t always see.

But they kiss on the lips.

And Timmy, when he kisses, he doesn’t pucker. At all. No, he opens his mouth, he flares his lips. His kiss encompasses both her upper and lower lips. Sometimes his upper lip grazes her nose before setting in to devour her mouth.

It is gross. And it goes on and on. Not just one kiss, but kiss after kiss after kiss. Open-mouthed kissing. Mother-son necking in my front hall.

I am skeeved out on a nightly basis. I try not to be, but I am. Urgh.

November 29, 2007 - Posted by | eeewww, quirks and quirkiness


  1. OK, I do kiss my kids on the lips – the closed-mouth pucker you mentioned – but the kisses you described between Timmy and his mother DO sound gross!

    Comment by BookMama | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  2. That’s precisely why I don’t kiss Jeffrey on the lips. All of his kisses are delightful wide open fish mouth,throwing out his arms and leaping at you. I always turn at the last second so that they leave a large sloppy spot on my cheek or neck.
    I mean I love that kid, but he eats dirt. ewww.

    Comment by Dani | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  3. I gotta admit, I was never into lip kissing between parent and child either, but somewhere along the way, Pumpkinpie got the idea that kissing means on the lips, and she’d turn my face to kiss me on the mouth. A dry little pucker, yes, but still. I’d prefer cheek kisses with a child, so that’s where I kiss her, when she is not giving me the mouth kiss. (But the little lips do look hilarious all gathered up and pushed out. hee.)

    Comment by kittenpie | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  4. Kissing on the lips is fine with me and I don’t think of it as only for lovers.

    Comment by Z | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  5. I’ve always felt that way too – I even have a photo of me kissing my mom when I was little, and for as long as I can remember I’ve found that picture a bit gross.

    The thing is, the kids just AIM there. So mostly it’s just a little peck, but lately Bub has started cuddling in at bedtime and planting multiple kisses. (All closed-mouth, thank goodness.) I don’t want to squelch his love, but it freaks me out.

    Comment by bubandpie | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  6. Like Bookmama, I’m okay with the drive-by peck variety of lip kissing. But…not long ago, Maya became infatuated with “The Princess Bride,” and after seeing Buttercup and Westley kiss, she totally tried to French me. Repeatedly.

    Thankfully, a lot of head-turning later, that has PASSED. Now we’re on to the next phase, which is a loud insistence on “NO KISSES. JUST HUGS!”

    Comment by Allison | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  7. Soooo funny. I have always done a next to the mouth kiss with the kids. We both pucker and then hit slightly off the mouth. Youngest is very affectionate and will grab my face and plant one on the mouth. Then he trys to mush his face back and forth. Now, I don’t want to scar him by pulling away and letting him know that it is GROSS so I try to handle it gently and I hope he grows out of it soon! (He, too, saw the Princess Bride. I wonder if THAT is where he got it!)

    Comment by twoboysmom | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  8. For really sloppy kisses, no matter where they land? I dry my face — BUT! I’m NOT “wiping it off”, I’m “rubbing it in.” There: guilt-free facial hygiene.

    But really, it won’t scar the boy to be told,”Mummy doesn’t like that kind of kiss. I like THIS kind of kiss.” And then demonstrate. And then practice.

    It’s all good!

    Comment by MaryP | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  9. I have the same kind of squeamishness, and so does my sister – I’ve heard her tell both her sons that “Kisses go on the CHEEK. Kissing on the lips is just for mommies and daddies.” (Well, maybe not literally, but you get the idea.) I don’t remember having much of a problem with misplaced kisses when Chris was young, and most of the kids I’m around now are more huggy than kissy.

    But I’d be getting skeeved out right there with you, every day…

    Comment by Florinda | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  10. What grosses me out is my husband’s grandmother leaning in for lip kisses. She does this every time I hug her and every time I turn away and bis her instead. What is she thinking mouth kissing her grandson’s wife?

    I used to be put off by mouth kissing too. I would gently redirect when ever he wanted to sloppy mouth kiss to cheeks and nose etc. I was quite firm.

    Then I had a little girl, and she gave me cute little girl kisses and I melted, though they are just pecks.

    Then I had another baby girl and kept having to stop myself from eating her cheeks and she did the cute baby rooting thing and would open her mouth and nuzzle my lips with hers whenever I brushed her cheeks with my lips. It turned into a fun little game where she would giggle and kiss me and i would kiss her bag and then she’d end up sucking on my lower lip. So, I guess, somewhere along the way I lost that aversion. ;0

    But I doubt I’d do that with an older child or toddler, it would be weird.

    Comment by carrien | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  11. When I was little, we only ever kissed cheeks with adults. Lip-kissing was gross for kids. Except my Grandma would lip-kiss and I thought it was the grossest thing ever.

    Now, I’m fine with those dry, bouncy puckers with my tot, and only because it’s so darned cute. But when he tries to imitate Daddy… that’s just not okay.

    Comment by rosie_kate | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  12. I have never been bothered with lip kissing but my daughter (4yrs old) doesn’t like it. She will give us loads of kisses on the cheeks but hates the lip kissing. When her grand-parents kiss her on the lips she will wipe her lips right away. My 1yr old son has gives the open mouth kisses and it drives her insane! I never realised that other people felt this way as well. It’s not a subject you hear about very often. I love this site!!!!

    Comment by Marie | November 29, 2007 | Reply

  13. Its not that I’m not an affectionate or tactile person but it has to be on my terms, I hate it when people hug or kiss you when you’re really not into reciprocating, my family know that I’m not the huggy type, even if upset. I dont think my dad and I have physically touched since I was a child but we are very close, but I would never hug him or him me, weird? I will hug my mum if she’s upset but I dont really like it, Dumpling gets alot of hugs but he always wipes cheek kisses away! Lolly would like more hugs but I must admit I feel weird now she has the body of a woman, where did my baby go?

    Comment by jenny uk | November 30, 2007 | Reply

  14. I am a tactile person. My kids — all three of them — get daily hugs (when they’re around. Haley, of course, lives on her own.) The occasional playful swat on a butt. Not so much kisses any more, though I do still drop them on top of a head now and then. Emma is very huggy. She’ll approach me in the kitchen with her arms spread, declaring “HUG!” She’s two inches taller than me and has inherited my (ahem, hourglass) figure. Adam is over six feet now. When he hugs me (which he does, every day he’s here), my nose is buried in his shoulder. The girls and I will sit side-by-side on the couch, and one or the other might lean in for that extra bit of contact.

    And the daycare tots? They get tonnes of kisses: on cheeks, on the top of their heads, on their tummies, on elbows and knees, on noses. And NOT on their lips.

    For that, I make do with Stephen. We manage most excellently. 😉

    Comment by MaryP | November 30, 2007 | Reply

  15. I love the lip kiss with my kids, but my personal rule is that none of my spit should touch the child’s mouth. I usually tuck my lips in, so it’s more of a smack of the lips than a real kiss. I don’t accept open-mouthed kisses, either. I don’t like anyone other than me or my husband kissing our kids on the lips, though. In the near future, I’ll be enforcing that rule (the grandparents have had an amnesty for a while). I’ve noticed that family and friends have been a little too presumptuous of late. I remember when my first child was a baby, one of our not-very-close friends kissed him on the cheek. I snatched him away immediately! I never kiss another person’s baby unless they hand the baby over to me and say, “Kiss Auntie Kat!” Usually, I’ll kiss them on the head or an extended limb, or the cheek if we’re blood related or I’m the godparent, but never the lips. Filipinos have a gesture of respect where the child touches his/her forehead on the back of the older person’s hand, which is much more hygienic (except it makes the adults feel REALLY old).

    Comment by Kat | November 30, 2007 | Reply

  16. I hate the lip kissing, too, but my daughter has impeccable aim.
    My rule is to never, EVER force a child (or even ask repeatedly) to kiss or hug another adult. Not Grandma, not my favourite uncle, no one. It’s their body, they get to choose who to share it with!

    Comment by Tammy | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  17. Tammy: I completely agree. Thank you for raising this issue.

    I had an uncle who I really didn’t like. (Not the sloppy kisser uncle mentioned in the post, a different one.) This uncle just creeped me out. He never behaved inappropriately to me, but I didn’t like him, and I did NOT want to touch him, or have him touch me.

    When I told my mother I didn’t like kissing him, she was 100% supportive. “Then you don’t have to.” (It probably helped that she’d never liked the man either.) “You never have to kiss or touch anyone you don’t want to, and they don’t get to kiss or touch you unless you want them to.” And then she followed through with support when I was around him – because he was the type to try to push it. “I’m sorry, Uncle X, but Mary just doesn’t feel like a hug right now.” Yay, mom!

    It’s not “rude” to decide who has access to your body. My mother understood that, and I’ve passed it on to my kids. If you try to coax physical contact from an unwilling child (“Oh, come on, honey. Give gramma a nice hug!”), you teach them they don’t have the right to say no, and leave them helpless to resist abuse by twisted people. Because those people are out there, and we need to allow our children the right to say NO.

    Comment by MaryP | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  18. Ohman, half way through I was like “Whatever, I kissed my Mom on the lips like, last time I saw her.” But then I read about the open mouth stuff and was delightfully grossed out.

    I suppose it comes to cultural norms, it’s not like we kiss our acquaintances when we say “Hi” here. Our culture just isn’t as touchy-feely as some others. My family’s always been very affectionate, so I don’t think anything of it.

    Comment by jstubson | December 1, 2007 | Reply

  19. I read this last week and didn’t have time for the comment. I cringe to think of it really.. but I actually slapped a man who kissed me on the lips when I was ‘little’… a “Boyfriend” of an aunt, more like somebody she dated once or twice. It is gross.

    Comment by mo-wo | December 9, 2007 | Reply

  20. Oh my. I don’t kiss my daughter on the lips, or try not to, because I don’t want to expose her to the bacteria in my mouth (strep mutans, I think). I understand that they are what causes cavities, and you can pass them to your children by kissing and sharing utensils. So, we don’t do that. I guess I’ve never thought about the mouth kissing thing otherwise. Eww.

    Comment by midlife mommy | January 1, 2008 | Reply

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