David Beckham, U.K. soccer star, style icon, and all-around hot dad, set off an internet firestorm last week when he posted a darling picture of he and his 5 year old daughter Harper to his Instagram account. What, pray tell, could be so awful to inspire such backlash? Was he spanking her? Letting her toss back a pint? Kicking her into a soccer net? According to some of the keyboard warriors who took offense to the image, IT WAS EVEN WORSE: he was kissing her on the lips! The nerve of David Beckham, to show affection to his small child in such a manner! Won’t someone think of the children?!
If there’s one thing people on the internet will not stand for, it’s completely normal and healthy displays of affection between, say, parents and their kids. And commenters on his Instagram page were quick to flay him for having the audacity to give his little girl a smooch. One obviously well-adjusted individual called the image “DISGUSTING!” and went on to say, “What a sick man kisses a little girl? This poor girl, enduring that, will never be able to have a relationship with a man, will just see the exploitation.”
So true, random internet user, pity this poor girl whose dad spends time with her and shows he loves her with little pecks on the lips. However will she recover?
Celebrity parents catching flack for kissing their kids on the mouth isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Just last summer, Beckham’s wife and icon in her own right, Victoria Beckham, was dragged across hot coals for daring to share a birthday smooch with Harper, with people calling it “wrong” and “gross”.
And Hilary Duff suffered similar treatment when she posted a picture of her and her 4-year-old son Luca sharing a sweet moment in front of It’s a Small World at Disneyland, being called “inappropriate”, “abusive”, and worse.
So what is the problem people have with parents kissing their own kids on the lips? Of all the weird stuff we do as parents (raise your hand if you’ve ever fished a boogie out of your kids nose!), how is it that people cannot handle something as sweet and innocent as affection between a mom or dad and the child they created and are raising with love? For many, there seems to be a sexual connotation to kissing that, apparently, applies to all kisses in all scenarios. Samantha Rodman, PhD, known online as Dr. Psych Mom, points to the hypocritical nature of this argument.
She says, “Parents do loads of things with kids that sexual partners will later do, e.g. backrub, bath, hugging, laying with them in their bed, holding them close and cuddling, and, yes, kissing them on the lips.” She goes on to say that children children can “derive physical pleasure from without this being inappropriate or strange”. In fact, according to Dr. Rodman, physical affection in childhood between family members and trusted friends can help a child develop a healthy perception of physical love in relationships. In her practice, she often deals with adults who have difficulty showing affection, and they often “relate this to their family not being very physically affectionate.”
If you’re not a parent who is comfortable with kissing their kids on the lips, that is totally fine! And obviously, once the child is old enough to express disinterest or discomfort with that particular form of affection, then it’s best to follow their cues and stay within the boundaries of what they ARE comfortable with. But if you see a picture of a mom or dad exchanging a quick peck on the lips with their own child and your first reaction is “EW!”, then maybe, JUST MAYBE, some reflection is in order.
(Image: Instagram / @davidbeckham)