Step away From the Kiss
The lure of Santa overrode our good sense when my partner took our fifteen month old daughter to see him at the mall. As soon as she was on his lap and she opened her mouth wide and wailed. “Would you like us to try again?” asked the photographer. “No”, said my partner. “That captures it.” We didn’t go again and never took The Boy when he was born a few years later.
We were not ones to insist on hugging and kissing strangers when the kids were toddlers and on that huge learning curve about social interaction, so Santa really was a slip. My partner berated herself for it, but we both made the decision as we fell prey to the culture of Christmas. Photos with Santa weren’t part of my childhood, but they were part of hers, so it seemed like a tradition we’d follow too.
Many of us are raising our kids to understand boundaries in ways we didn’t learn. Boundaries are important. Your toddler doesn’t feel comfortable hugging the extended family member she’s never met? Don’t make her. If we push our kids, we teach them give the message that their comfort doesn’t matter. That’s a horrible message to send a kid with into a future of negotiating relationships, especially comfort with sexuality.
My daughter’s a teen; my son almost, and I know these messages of support are still important. Each stage of their development brings new social expectations of interaction, and some of those expectations aren’t appropriate. The heck with tradition. I want them to feel fine to trust their inner compasses when the messages are yes… and no.
As we see people this holiday season, I’ll be insisting on good manners and kindly welcoming people to our home. But I’ll not be encouraging any kisses.