This last week Victoria Beckham, as a parent, posted a picture on Instagram of her kissing her 5-year-old daughter on the lips.
Many criticized Victoria Beckham and called her ugly names. Many defended her, posting the picture of them kissing their own kids. C’mon, people, is this really what it’s come to? Do we have nothing better to do than debate the parenting style of people we don’t know and will never meet?
Sigh… It seems that distance criticism is what we do best. So let’s talk about the actual issue here—appropriate versus inappropriate affection between parent and child.
Our society is quickly taking up a position that all sexuality is okay as long as no one is hurt. Not just okay, but even encouraged. Media floods our brains with images of same-sex couples kissing at pride events. Celebrities bounce from partner to partner and nobody bats an eye (plus it gives Taylor Swift more song writing material!). And I think this over-sexualization of society is the root of the problem. We’ve come to the point where many cannot see a kiss between a parent and child without reading sexual content into it. It’s not the parents who disturb me, it’s the people who read into the behavior who disturb me.
Much of what we consider to be appropriate physical behavior is culturally conditioned. Citizens in some countries greet each other with kisses on the cheek. It’s not romantic. In some cultures you will see two men, best friends, walking down the street holding hands. It’s not romantic—it’s a sign of solidarity and friendship.
How far can a parent go to show affection and love to his/her child? I’m willing to look foolish for the sake of my kids. It reminds me of the story Jesus tells in Luke 15 we sometimes call “The Prodigal Son.” The basic premise is that the young son bails on his family, takes part of the family fortune, and blows it all in a way that would bring shame and dishonor upon his family. So he decides to go home and ask his father for a position as a servant, since he doesn’t deserve to be part of the family any more (but he still needs a job, you know?!) Jesus picks up the story and says:
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
The father saw his son from a long way off and ran to him. In the Ancient Near East, men didn’t wear blue jeans. They had tunics. Running would have meant pulling up his tunic. It would have meant exposing part of his legs to the public so that he could run freely. But getting to his son was more important than what society thought. So he hitches up his tunic and runs to his son. He hugs his son. He kisses his son.
Jesus is trying to teach us something about how God, our heavenly Father, cares about us. There’s also something to be learned about a love so fierce that we’re willing to demonstrate it in front of the whole world. It also says something to our kids when we’re willing to show the affection we feel.
So last night as I was putting my kids to bed I kissed each one of them—my daughters and my son—on the lips. I told them I loved them. Then I said good night.
And, I’ll probably do it again tonight, too.