A few years back, I woke up to headlines about Victoria Beckham doing something "inappropriate" with her child. I don't presume to know the personal lives of celebrities, but I couldn't imagine what this seemingly doting mother of four could be up to that was so wrong. Then I saw the Instagram.
Victoria Beckham was doing the same thing I do a dozen times a day. She was kissing her daughter . . . on the lips.
It was a sweet image, but the comments were vitriolic. Some called it "gross," others said it was "a disgusting display," and still more said she should be "ashamed of herself."
So, then, more than a year later, when I saw that David Beckham posted a similar photo of himself giving his little girl an innocent kiss on the lips, I was hopeful but not optimistic that the sentiment would be any different. Sadly, times haven't changed and my pessimism won out: people weren't happy.
Many thought it was "weird" considering he was of the opposite sex, others were disturbed by her age – she was a month shy of six at the time. A few even alluded to "proof" that "kissing kids on the lips is wrong."
Technically speaking, this proof does exist. Experts have been quoted over the years saying that lip-on-lip kissing with children can cause sexual confusion and that exposing kids to this behavior at home can lead to promiscuity later in life. They'll be more desensitized, have fewer boundaries, no limits.
I'm the first to admit that, as a parent, I can be quick to trust the advice of such "experts."
I heeded nearly every recommendation I was given about breastfeeding, I followed the American Academy of Pediatrics' guidelines about screen time to a T, and I read every new parenting study as if it were written in stone. I diligently took notes as our family pediatrician advised me to introduce rice cereal as a "first food" for my baby.
I'm certainly not going to let the anonymous legions of pitchfork-wielding internet commenters sway my decision.
But the thing we have to remember about experts is that they're not always right. The AAP has since drastically changed its screen time recommendations. As for that rice cereal? Oh, it contains arsenic.
When it comes to kissing my kid on the lips, I'm not going to solicit the results of scientific research in some longitudinal study to give me an answer. And, perhaps like Mr. and Mrs. Beckham, I'm certainly not going to let the anonymous legions of pitchfork-wielding internet commenters sway my decision.
I'm just going to do it.
I'm going to kiss my daughter on her lips, her cheeks, her feet, her belly, her hands, her forehead, and every other bit she lets me. I'm going to kiss her when she's 2 years old, when she's 5, when she's 25, and as long after that as she lets me.
It's simply one of the ways I show love, and I think we can all agree that, now more than ever, we could all stand to have a little more love in our lives.
Here's the thing, though: if you think it's gross, disgusting, or inappropriate to kiss a child on the lips, then don't. Just don't do it. I'm sure you show love in other forms, many of which are ways I probably show love, too. Fine, great even.
Please, however, do not judge or shame someone else for doing something that's causing no harm simply because you disagree with it.
Listen, if someone Instagrams a photo of their child running with scissors on a Slip 'N Slide, say something. If you see a Facebook picture of a child poorly secured to a car seat, by all means, let the parent know. But if you see someone posting a photo of a demonstration of love in it's purest, most universal form, just keep your no-lip-kissing mouth shut.