Yeah, I Kiss My Sons…So What?

rsz_dad_kissing_son

Kissing your sons is vital to their emotional development. Doug Zeigler tells us why.  

I have two sons that I kiss every day I’m with them. They’re not babies, either. My oldest son is 9 and my youngest son is 6. I give them kisses regardless of whether it be in public or private. I’m proud of the fact that they aren’t worried about how it looks to strangers or who sees them puckering up to lay one on their dad’s scruffy face. I like when both of them grab the patch of hair on my face that passes for a beard and tell me I need to shave because it’s scratchy when I give them a kiss good night. Being a very affectionate human myself, I don’t see this as anything but showing my boys that I love them. But when I look at, and I mean REALLY look at, fathers and how they interact with their sons when I’m in public, I feel like I’m in the minority.

Comedian Rob Delaney recently posted something on his Tumblr account that was printed in an Australian magazine named Smith Journal about men kissing their boys which really struck a chord in me. He spoke of how seeing a man in his 60’s on one of his morning runs got him to thinking about how good it felt to have his dad kiss him good morning or good night. That led to him thinking about his two sons, and how he loves kissing them too. He talks about how he thinks we do a “gross disservice” to our sons by not showing them the love they need and deserve. Instead, many men avoid contact with their sons and teach them to toughen up and not cry. Most often starting around the time our sons enter kindergarten, we’ve replaced kisses with abrupt pats on the head and holding them at arm’s length, teaching them to hold everyone at a distance. We think it prepares them for the adult world. However, what it really does teach them is that feelings are invalid and their worth as a man is tied directly to how “manly” they are.

Fellow Good Men Project writer Mark Greene explored in his excellent series on Touch Isolation the fears we have as fathers in relation to touch and what it will do to our sons. Societal dogma drives us to fear that we’ll turn them gay or into pussies. We worry what other people will think if our little men want to wrap their arms around our neck and give us a peck before they run off to play. Will they think we’re pedophiles? Creating weaker males for tomorrow?  That we’re not being “real men” by being so open with our affection towards our own kids?

I call bullshit on all of those notions. The stoic patriarch dad is out; the hands-on dad is in. If we want our sons to grow up and be good partners with those they choose to have relationships, don’t we owe it to them to show how to express feelings and love? Sure, we need to also show boundaries and consent for those feelings and expressions, but they need more than just the simple where and at to what extent. As Rob Delaney put it: “Here’s just one reason the way I raise my sons matters to the world at large: my sons will one day wander out into the world and meet your daughters. So one hopes I instill in them, and model for them, behavior that is rooted in kindness, compassion and fundamental respect of others.” We can extrapolate applications of this concept with this basic precept: be kind, be present, and don’t be afraid of feelings or expressing them.

So I’m going to continue to give my boys kisses. Hopefully they will learn to express their love freely with openness and without any level of shame. And hopefully, they won’t wipe those dad kisses away.

Photo – Flicker/b0y_m3nth4

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About Doug Zeigler

Doug is a husband, a father of four, a tech and video game geek. In his rare spare moments, he enjoys good books and even better beers, exploring new things, places and food with his wife and Kentucky basketball. He also possesses a vast knowledge of 80's music that he hopes will pay off big at some random trivia night.

Comments

  1. Great essay.

    But it creates a question in my mind: How to we show affection to our STEP children?

    Gary

    • If you love them like your own, it shouldn’t matter. Sounds like your just worried about “what other people will think”.

      • Angie – Very quick to judge :-(

        My step are 10 and 7, and very new to me (known them for 3 years, living with them for 6 months). We are starting off with high-fives and an occasional hug.

        I suppose I should have set more context for my question. This article begs another – creating safe affection for new step-kids. Ideas?

        • Doug Zeigler says:

          Gary, perhaps that’s a piece that needs to be explored more. as I said, I’m very fortunate: both of my step daughters are very affectionate and took to me pretty easily. Not every situation is that easy. Go at whatever pace is comfortable for you and your new daughters may be the best approach, in my very humble opinion.

  2. I kiss my son for one primary reason: I have to take a big SNORFLE of his smell every few hours or I go CRAZY. Oops. Hold on a minute. I have to go kiss him RIGHT NOW!!!!!

  3. Doug Zeigler says:

    Gary, I have step daughters, and I kiss them as if they’re my own as well. I’m fortunate that they are truly amazing girls.

    Well said, Mark!

    And Angie, sometimes step children are very resistant to accepting step parents, regardless of how you love and treat them.

  4. My son, who is now 32, always gave the best kisses.

    I was watching a story about a boy who had lost an eye to cancer. The boy was a huge USC football fan, and at age 11 he was told he’d lose his other eye. One of the things the kid did was to try and see as much as he could before the sight ending surgery. In the boy’s words, he wanted to see his parents and siblings and his best friend’s face so he’d remember them after his sight was gone.

    The USC football team had opened their hearts to the kid for weeks and they all got to know each other, and the night before his surgery he watched them practice. After practice as the boy prepared to leave, one of the players hugged him and kissed him on top of the head as he said good-bye. It seemed so natural and right. The better angels of our nature.

    Not that it matters, but I think the player was Clay Mathews, now with the Packers.

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      That’s a great story, Adrian. It’s also great, in my opinion, that your son was willing to give you affection openly. Good for you. :-)

  5. Greg Anderson says:

    I kiss my son several times a day usually accompanied by a big hug. Even now that he is 17 he will come up to me in public, in private, and in front of his friends and ask for a kiss and a hug. I wondered what his friends would think, when I looked into their eyes I saw a great deal of wanting, wishing they were getting the same love and affirmation from their fathers. I know i will never stop hugging and kissing my son.. I just wish more fathers would show that kind of affection to their sons.

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      I hope my sons do the same, Greg. I think it’s wonderful that your son is not ashamed or afraid to show that. I know I’m going to try my best to instill that sort of display of love in my boys.

  6. As I’ve stated previously, the first time I hugged my Dad, I was about 28 years old and basically decided ‘aw, f**k it’ and just went for it! I guess I was somewhat surprised at his easily acceptance , I guess he’d been somewhat bound by the ‘Male Code’ of his era (as was I). Anyway, 4 week to the day he died, my son was born. Since the day he was born up until he left for Afghanistan, I never failed to give him a hug and a kiss, and to tell him I loved him. He always responded he loved me too. In a couple of months he’ll be coming home, God willing, and I’m ready to give him a BIG hug and kiss (along with a blowout party where I intend to get pissass drunk) and if ANYONE has problem with this , well GO POUND SALT UP YOUR ASS!!!!

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      How great is it that your dad accepted that show of affection and love? I applaud you carrying that over to your son too. Best wishes for him to come home healthy, happy, and SOON.

  7. George Davis says:

    I was never, not once ever kissed as a boy by my Dad. Your boys will never grow up doubting your love for them…way to go, bro’…

  8. This is what drives me nuts – my 8 year old, already is at that point that he doesn’t want to be seen giving me affection. At night, before bed? no problem. As I drop him off at school? He can’t get out fast enough.

    I tell him “I’m going to be giving you kisses the rest of my life, so get used to it!”

    • Doug Zeigler says:

      I’m not sure what would help that situation, Brian. On one hand, you want to show your son it’s OK to show affection by kissing him, but on the other hand, you don’t want him to rebel against it. If it were me, I’d do my best to make him feel comfortable, and take it day by day. Best of luck!

    • I’m not a man and I don’t have kids, but it’s nice that you have this private moment before sleeping where your son allows you tu give him a hug or a kiss. Then, who cares if he doesn’t want hugs in front of the school! When I was 11 I didn’t even wanted to walk side by side with my parents on the street, I thought it wasn’t cool to have a walk with parents :) It was just a phase, a moment…I will always remember how beautiful was to kiss and hug my parents as a child!

    • “I tell him “I’m going to be giving you kisses the rest of my life, so get used to it!”…That made me chuckle and smile, Brian. That’s wonderful. I love it.

    • My teenage sons don’t really want kisses in public, and I can relate to that. I “kiss” them goodbye by kissing my hand and patting their heads with it; one has started high fiving me for that kiss. It works for us; it keeps them feeling cool, and loved. (We get real hugs at home, kisses when they feel good about them.)

  9. As an Aunt to a wonderfully affectionate 7 year old boy, I will never stop hugging, kissing or showing any sort of affection to him. We no longer live, but I always remind him how loved he is. He still revels in the amount of affection he gets from both his parents (my sister and brother in-law), myself and my parents as well. I believe the all the affection and love he is shown (everyday), since he was a wee one, has shaped him into the kind, loving and caring boy that he is today, and hopefully as he grows into a young man.
    Thank you for this article.

  10. As a mother who has a daughter, I thank you! Both our children have grown up in a household full of kisses, hugs, & “I love you”. I hope that both my son and daughter find partners that exudes kindness, compassion & respect, the values that you are installing into your own children. My son is 20, and I gave him one piece of advice when he goes on dates……. Treat her like you’d want your sister treated by her boyfriend.

  11. Doug Zeigler says:

    Sage advice, Lola. Thanks for sharing and reading this. We owe it to our kids to show them all the love we can.

  12. I look around me daily when I pick up my girls from school and I am the only mom kissing my daughters and hugging them daily. Letting them know how much I missed them all day. Keep kissing uour sons/daughters. It’s wonderful!

  13. Another point is that this kissing fear is cultural. My husband is Mexican and still kisses his father. It’s normal in his view and I’m the one who is weird for not kissing my dad!

  14. Steve Gostovich says:

    Out of all my friends growing up, I was the only one who ever kissed
    His father on a daily basis. I always felt special having that bond with
    Him that I didn’t care what anyone thought I was going to love him openly.
    He told me when I was young to never be embarrassed to kiss your father
    Because one day I will want to kiss him and he not be here anymore.
    He never received any type of love or affection from his father growing up
    And he never wanted me to ever feel that way . He is 79 and I kiss him every time
    I see him and every time I leave. It is natural. I also kiss my son all the time
    And he returns the kiss in public. I see others who wish they had the same bond.

  15. Patrick Thomas says:

    My son is 4 years old. When I ask for a hug and a kiss, he gives me a kiss on the lips. I think it is special that he is not aware this is not socially acceptable to some people. But, it is and always will be acceptable to me, his father :)

  16. This post reminds me of growing up with my father – a difficult and troubled man, from whom I’m estranged now for many reasons, but one thing he did very right was showing my brother and me affection through hugs and kisses. My brother is more reserved than I am but he never shies away from that contact when we are all together.

    I’m holding my little boy as I type this and I can’t help but to think of how lucky I am, not just that I have this sweet little person to shower with kisses but also that as his mother it’s more expected…and accepted. I’m just glad that my husband has never been concerned with what others think and that hugging and kissing our son comes as naturally to him.

    Fantastic post, thank you so much for the reminder that there are so many other amazing dads out there.

  17. Doug – I saw your link for this article.

    There is a Bible qoute in Philipians 4:8 : “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is noble, whatsoever is right, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    Your piece reminds me of this qoute. It is “whatsoever lovely”….and true, nobel, right, pure and admirable.. and it’s praiseworthy.

    Affection among men and boys is needed conversation. How we show boys affection is ultimately how they learn to give affection. It leaves the door open for a whole entirely new meaning of strength among men.

    I hope you write more articles.

  18. l love this!!!
    l love this article , I love thisthey will always be able to get that need met by us in a small website, I love that my husband reads it too , I love the openness in thought it engenders, I love the challenge to our thinking it provokes,
    l have 3 sons and I want them to grow up to be men who know they are loved. My hubby and | kiss them all the time. The more self-conscious 8 go is starting to object to being kissed in public and particularly around school friends but I keep telling him that it’s going to happen anyway. (Having said that, I’m very conscious of appropriate body ownership and them being able to refuse physical contact if they wish).
    It is especially heartening to me to see my husband kiss and hug our sons. He didn’t have that with his own father + suffered for it. I’m so glad to see it now. l think my boys benefit from having a mother who has ‘physical affection’ as a ‘love Language’. But the most important thing is the Knowledge for them that in a world that allows skin hunger to go unaddressed, they will always be able to get that need met by us in a small way.
    This is the first time I have commented , though I have stalked this page t site for a longtime. Thankyou all for your work + efforts. As soon as they’re old enough l want my boys to read t engage in this forum too. I see so much common sense, thought and moral fortitude here.

  19. previous comment unfortunately needs editing! still getting used to new Device! Remove ‘they will always be able to get that need met by us’ before website, 8go= 8yo , page ‘and’ site, read ‘and’ enage.

  20. I could not love this more! As a kid, my dad rarely demonstrated what I recognised as affection, and sadly it was at the hands of sexual abuse that I received most of the physical touch that I craved.

    As an adult, I got to the point where I simply thought “bugger it, I’m just gonna do it.” I committed to hugging and kissing my dad each time I saw him and it was the most uncomfortable thing in the world, it was liking being intimate with an ironing board….but over time, he softened and his body gave in to the moment and then he began to initiate ‘contact’. It took time, be we got there.

    I don’t receive anywhere near the amount of male affection that I’d like, and to be honest, it is still something that I crave. Sadly, I don’t have a son, but if I did, he’d get the message that affection amongst men is good and welcome loud and clear.

  21. I have three sons, all under three. Since birth I’ve kissed them all. Traditionally, there is a point in which you stop kissing them, at least that’s what I’ve noticed in my family circles. Not sure I will continue to kiss them on their lips as they get older but I know their cheeks and heads will always be fair play. I would just find it hard not to express to them that I love them with a simple kiss, just like I did when they were babies. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the stoic father or the hands-on dad, I think its important to be a little bit of both.

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  1. […] attachments to toys, places, and other people. We’ll also need better role models, like Doug Zeigler who kisses his son in public. In addition to the current generation of dads that’s struggling to figure out how to overcome […]

  2. […] attachments to toys, places, and other people. We’ll also need better role models, like Doug Zeigler who kisses his son in public. In addition to the current generation of dads that’s struggling to figure out how to overcome […]

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