It’s not the first time he’s shared a PDA with his kids – or faced flack for it. In November, Piers Morgan branded the footballer “weird” for posting a snap on Instagram of him kissing Harper while out ice-skating, and one commenter slammed this most recent display of daddy-daughter affection as being “creepy and inappropriate”.
But here’s the thing: I kiss my seven-year-old (and my two-year-old) on the lips all the time – her dad does too – and I’m all for it.
In fact, I don’t understand why people think there’s anything wrong with it. I can’t think of a simpler, more profoundly moving gesture than wanting to be close to your children, and a kiss on the lips screams love.
There’s a huge difference between kissing your child and kissing a romantic partner, of course – the two are done in very different ways. But everyone knows that. And in my opinion, if you’re conflating the two, then it says more about you than it does the person doing it.
A peck on the lips gives you an instant surge of oxytocin – the ‘love hormone’. It’s the same hormone that gets released during childbirth and breastfeeding, and has been shown to foster feelings of affection and attachment. And what could possibly be wrong with that?
I’m greedy for kisses. I can’t get enough – and as soon as my two-year-old plants a slightly soggy smacker on my mouth I ask for another, straight away, until he wags his tiny, chubby finger in my face and tells me sternly, “No, Mummy! No more kisses!”
The moment either one of them decides they don’t want to kiss me anymore, though, time’s up. I’m committed to teaching them about consent, and have written before about why we shouldn’t force our children – at any age – to kiss ageing relatives or well-meaning friends “just to be polite”.
I believe the earlier we teach our kids that they have the right to decide what happens to their bodies – and empower them to say “no” – the better. But right now, my kids want to kiss me, and I’m here for it.
I’m already preparing myself for the moment that changes. I remember the day I decided, on a whim, that I didn’t want to kiss my parents goodnight any more. We didn’t discuss it, but I can only imagine how sad they must have been.
My little girl is growing up. She already has (very) strong opinions on what she wants to wear, eat, read and do. It’s only a matter of time before she decides that a kiss on the lips at the school gate is not cool, and waves goodbye instead.
But right now, kisses are just another way to say, “I love you”. And like David Beckham, who said in 2017 that he kisses all his kids because “we want to show our kids love”, I’ll go on kissing my children on the lips until they decide enough is enough.
And then I’ll smile, and stop (and probably have a little cry).