I’ve been lucky enough in my relationships to have men who show me physical affection at home WHILE in front of children. Once, a long time ago, the father of my daughter, when we were still together, walked into our friend’s house, where we had been invited for dinner with our then toddler, and my former fiancé gave me a kiss as soon as he walked in the room and saw me. The wife of another couple, with a child, said to her husband, “See? Why don’t you ever come in and kiss me?”
Now, with my now fiancé, the father of our son, it’s not uncommon for me to be sitting on his lap, with all of our kids watching television with us, or for us to kiss each other if we walk by one another in the kitchen, even when the children are doing their homework at the table. We always kiss ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in front of our children, and we constantly hug at home.
You’d think that with a ten-year-old, 12 year-old and 14 year-old, we’d get a lot of, “Gross!” Or even some sassiness, like, “Take it to the bedroom.” Nope. Our children have never said these words to us. Thank God. If we’re in mid-hug, we might get from one of our girls, “Can you please move? I need to grab a spoon.”
I think it is super important for parents to show affection to each other, especially in front of their kids. I’m not talking full on make-out and humping, but hugs, kisses, sitting on laps, friendly pats on the butt, and saying, “I love you,” to each other, as parents, is something our kids need to see.
I grew up in a house where I never saw my parents’ hug or kiss. I was shocked when I was at my parent’s house once, years after I had moved out, to see a note my mother had left for my father. It read something like, “I went grocery shopping.” But at the end of that note was a little heart. I was shocked because I had no idea that my mother did these sort of lovey-dovey things for my Dad, when I was or wasn’t around, considering in front of my brothers and I, we had never even heard them say ‘I love you’ to each other.
So you would think my “normal” now would be a house where affection, in front of children, wasn’t abundantly clear. But it isn’t. Not only because it’s a different generation now, where parents are much more mushy in front of their kids, but because I want my children to see it. I never say to my fiancé, when he wants to kiss me, “Not in front of the c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n,” not only because they are old enough to spell, but also because I just don’t give a damn if they see we actually LIKE each other, because we do!
I have one couple friend, who have been married for 15 years and were also high school sweethearts. Now, in their mid-forties, with two pre-teen children, my male friend in that relationship constantly compliments his wife’s ass, even in front of their kids. “Nice ass!” he’ll say, patting his wife’s behind. Their kids aren’t mortified. They may roll their eyes at their parents who are still very clearly affectionate to one another, but that’s about it.
Another couple friend of ours invited our family over for dinner with a few others. There were about 10 kids running around and this couple did actually end up making out like teenagers, not like a couple who have three children, and had guests over. (I even admit that I had to turn my eyes away, even though their kids didn’t seem to care!)
But, later, when I got home, I kind of thought this was wonderful. I want my children to grow up in a loving house (What parent doesn’t?) but not just a loving one, shown only by doing things, like that dinner is made, helping out with homework, or that you finally bought them snow pants.
I want my children to grow up actually SEEING physical affection, to know that it’s perfectly normal and that they deserve no less from their future spouses. If you can’t kiss your own spouse at home, no matter who is there, then really, it kind of makes you roommates.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are parents who do show their kids affection, but not their spouses, because it makes them uncomfortable, or they worry it will make their kids uncomfortable. Screw that!
Kids learn by what they see around them. I’m not sure how I grew up to be so comfortable showing physical affection, especially in front of kids, who know exactly what a kiss could lead to.
I’m glad that my fiancé and I aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to show our feelings or attraction to one another in front of our children. What’s the worst they can say after all, even to their friends? “Yeah, my parents still like each other?” Well, if that’s the worse they can say about us, then I think we’re doing pretty good at this parenting gig.