The internet was set alight last July with angry mums from all over the globe furiously tweeting, blogging, instagraming, emailing, shouting and generally airing their views in any medium that would have them. What was the source of this ire, you ask? The answer is a Dr Charlotte Renzick, an American clinical psychologist and author of a rather wordily title book ‘The Power of Your Child’s Imagination: How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success’. Apparently, she had the temerity to suggest that kissing one’s child on the lips is inappropriate and should not be encouraged. I have to confess my indignation levels retained a relative flat line regarding this pronouncement, but that is probably because I find something slightly discomforting about it myself. Before you get the lynch mob ready, I am not suggesting that I find anything deviant or wrong in it, but rather it is something to which I am unaccustomed.
So why exactly does this Doctor object to it?
Dr Renzick warns that kissing one’s child on the lips is ‘too sexual’. The mouth she argues is an erogenous zone and that this seemingly innocuous act of affection ‘can be stimulating’ and cause confusion in a child’s mind. She goes on to suggest that some children might associate kissing with sexual or romantic activity between parents and that engaging in a ‘similar’ activity with them is likely to leave them with troubling questions. She writes that, “If mommy kisses daddy on the mouth and vice versa, what does that mean, when I, a little girl or boy, kiss my parents on the mouth.”
To be honest, I think this is a bit of a storm in a tea cup. Common sense dictates that this is clearly not what happens. There is after all, nothing ‘similar’ in receiving a kiss on the lips from the sloppy chocolate covered mouth of a two year and a passionate kiss from a partner (on the rare occasions they might get to spend some time together). There has been a steady stream of clinical psychologists chiming in to this effect, denouncing what they see as a rather clumsy and cynical conflation of different acts. Indeed, some have drawn parallels with breastfeeding, a fellow erogenous zone. There is nothing confusing, they exclaim, about that either.