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The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

So, there I was years ago, watching my 5 year old son watch me kiss my 2 year old daughter on the lips. Wasn't there any truth in the lines from “As Time Goes By,” the classic song from Casablanca, “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss…” Well, I knew something was amiss, because my son had this look in his eyes as if to say “I know Daddy didn't just do something to my sister that he doesn't do to me.” Wow! What was I to do? What would you have done? I mean, my 2 year old daughter having seen me kiss my wife on the lips all of her young life had been puckering up for months with me to say hello or goodbye. My son must have never truly focused on what was going down, until now. So, with no further ado, this was the moment of truth. What was a brotha, or in this case father to do?

I teach a philosophy course called Moral Problems. In it I challenge my students to unpack moral dilemmas. Well, what could be more dilemmatic than my conundrum of whether or not to kiss my son on the lips? After all, his puckering up to emulate his sister’s receipt of a kiss from Daddy was long overdue. He may have subconsciously spied it before, but today, he was calling me to the carpet. And it wasn't like I could bookmark the moment and come back to it when I felt like it. No, no, no! It wasn't going to be that type of a party. So, I needed to “Stand and Deliver” for “Something New” or I would be “Unfaithful” to “The Mission” of not succumbing to “The War Within.” Sometimes when I am really stressed I speak in movie titles, so bear with me through those moments. Essentially my dilemma was:
If I don't kiss my son on the lips, then a positive consequence of not kissing him is that I can maintain my macho image. Like most men, I have worked diligently over the years to be seen as “cool” and “tough.” I couldn't run the risk of losing that image by responding to my son with too much affection, could I? Also, if I don't kiss my son on the lips, my daughter might continue to feel special. Lastly, if I don't kiss my son on the lips, I don't have to feel the sensation of ever kissing another male on the lips. After all, my dad never kissed me on the lips when I was young, did he? I'm still not sure about that! I wonder how many men's fathers kissed them on the lips when they were young!

Anyway, if I don't kiss my son on the lips, then a negative consequence of not kissing him is that I send a message to him and any other father and son tandem that might be caught in a similar situation that there is a double standard that fathers must adhere to if they don't want to be seen as different, or worse, less than the average guy. If I don't kiss my son, then he learns that Daddy is going to treat his daughter very different from the way he treats his son, and really for no certain reason except some ridiculous dysfunctional peer pressure that men respond to. Additionally I may be inadvertently telling him that he means less to me than the other two members of our household, his mother and sister, simply because I won't give him the affection he desires at that moment. Now remember, I am a diversity director, which only compounds this problem. I'm supposed to be somewhat enlightened. Another negative consequence is that my daughter might find a way to tease my son about the fact that Daddy kissed her, but not him. Though she was only two, she already had game!

If I kiss my son on the lips, a positive consequence could be that he feels as valued as his sister does, undercutting her game while developing his. I also could eliminate in my son any thoughts that there are limits to our affection that don't exist between his sister and I. Another positive consequence would be the statement I would make about my ability to not succumb to certain aspects of my socialization that truly are somewhat irrational. What is the big deal about a man kissing his son on the lips? Didn't I see the very chic Michael Douglas, the Michael Douglas who is married to Catherine Zeta-Jones, kiss the extremely Spartan Kirk Douglas, his father, on the lips once. If the man who portrayed the film Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko could do it, why can’t I.

If I kiss my son, on the lips mind you, a negative consequence might be that others might see it and that it might make them see me differently. Some might even say that it could even contribute to him being more comfortable kissing other males on the lips. Just because I am a diversity director doesn't mean I don't succumb to my socialization at times. The fear of people projecting to others who we are and what we are about is something that intimidates many of us. What would you do? What should a man do?

Well, I took a deep breath, puckered up, and went lip to lip with my Youngblood. It was a very strange sensation, this double consciousness, this feeling… Okay, let me say it another way… even though I was extremely proud of my self for having stepped up, I was just as relieved about the fact that somehow my son never puckered up to me again after that day. That tells you exactly how deep seated heterosexism is in our psyches. Or, that unlike my daughter and wife, my son either thinks the experience was overrated, or worse, that I am a lousy kisser. Still in all, what do you think should have been done? Why?

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Comments

I don't see why one person should have to think about kissing his son. i feel a child is a child, I whould not kiss my daughter on the lips if she was sixteen an going to the prom. As for a son an daughter i feel there is an age when they know the kissing stage is over. This is just my out look. I have a very high prays for Mr. Wiley, I just don't always agree with him

*** jj, I don't always agree with Mr. Wiley myself, and I am Mr. Wiley. So, we are on the same page with that. But, the kissing stage ends when the kissing stage ends. I don't think there has to be a set time for it to end though. Many people say it is relative to the culture or custom that you derive or originate from. -- J.W. ***

DUDE!
As a guy who's helped raise two teenagers I can tell you this - DON'T SWEAT the SMALL STUFF! And what you describe up here is absolutely THE SMALL STUFF!

If you DON'T treat your son and daughter differently, you're completely blind to their gender. Boys and girls will react very differently to exactly the same situation. Maybe it's social conditioning, maybe it's brain chemistry, maybe it's hormones. I don't know why it's true, but I can certainly tell you that it IS true. If you treat them exactly the same, you will drive both of them nuts, and, they'll take you along for the ride.

"Equal" does not always mean "the same."

*** No doubt, Card Buddy, but we all experience a moment where our conditioning conflicts with our logic. So, confess that while your logic is impeccable when it comes to the way you have interacted with your children, what is the instance where you had a conflict between logic and social conditioning? -- J.W. ***

J.W.

Congratulations on entering the blogosphere. I'm looking forward to your views on current issues, (local and national), movies and ... your rhetorical reflections.

Call Me Bro ...


*** Why thank you, kind sir. Congratulations to you on joining me in the blogosphere. Is it anything like Thunderdome? So, I am to call you "Bro" or are you asking me to call you, and then ending the request with an affectionate salutation, albeit abbreviated, "Bro" for brother? Those who know me well know I am not very adept at the use of slang, "homey!" Oh, and am I mistaken or did you try to slip an insult in there with the "rhetorical reflections" remark? I'll call you bro, alright! -- J.W. ***

Gender is a label created by society that doesn't exist but in our minds. It only exists because we allow it. It is unfortunate that our society remains trapped in the bounds that have regulated it, often erroneously, throughout time. There are so many advances that could be made to bring us closer to a more humanistic worldview, yet we allow the fear that arises from non-conformity to hold us back from evolving.
Anyway. I kiss my son on the lips and I truly hope I continue to for as long as I kiss my daughter on the lips and not let what society tells me I should be doing prevent me from fully enjoying that most pure love parents have for their children.

*** Steve, teaching diversity courses as I do I am aware of the reality of gender as a social construction. Nevertheless, there are those times when theory and practice both demand our attention, and I am sure you have heard the old saying "you can't serve two Masters." -- J.W. ***

My don is 10 now - no more kissing, but we do tell each other we love each other everyday and a big hug every morning.

There are a million ways to show affection, sending the message is the important thing.


*** I totally agree. I am awaiting my morning hug as we speak. -- J.W. ***

JW ...
Real men do kiss their sons on the lips and in public. I still give both of my sons (ages 23 and 26) a kiss on the lips when we haven’t seen each other in a while. And, as teenagers, I remember shaking their hands and giving them a kiss at an awards ceremony, etc. If my wife and daughter can do it, why can't I?

And sons can kiss their fathers ....the last thing I remember doing at the funeral home, when I was alone with my father, as he lay in the casket, was to give him a kiss on the lips and say goodbye one final time....

Call me Bro ...

*** I've never seen you kiss your son in public, so I don't believe you. I think you are doing some macho posturing, but I will keep it between you and me.

On a more serious note, I don't doubt you kissed your father to say farewell, especially if he was the type of father to you that you are to your children. But the question is, "how often did you kiss him on the lips when he was alive?" Compare that number to the times you may have kissed your mother on the lips. Now, you tell me, what it the proportion? And since you went there, I do expect an answer. -- J.W. ***

Welcome to blogosphere, J.W., friend! I just started a few weeks ago and it's quite interesting, to say the least.

Kiss away, time and nature will take care of a lot of this. My son is a sophmore in high school and still hugs me in public. Very rare, indeed. I sense that it makes some of his friends uncomfortable and that's sad to me. I hope Nick feels comfortable because Jim and I raised him to not care what other people think (judge) about him and to always be true to himself. So far, so good.

I look forward to more of your posts, check mine out on my site anytime, I'd love your opinion. I would like to congratulate you on your new endeavor and wish you all the best.

*** RL, Great advice. I am kissing away. I am sure Jim and I understand a bit more why your son is still hugging his mother in public, even as a sophmore, Don't get confused, I mean this very respectfully, but have you looked in a mirror lately? If your personality and maternal instincts are anywhere near par to the energy you project and the smile that appears to always be on Jim's face, why wouldn't your son be hugging you. You may be correct that they are sad, or perhaps even envioous of the fact that they don't have that type of relationship with their mothers, or because they have never had that type of affection with their mothers they don't know how to process it. Another possibility, and frankly the one that could be the case with at least some of the friends, is that his friends very well might be uncomfortable because they may be crushing on you. But you are so modest you may not have processed that, and Jim probably wouldn't have thought about it because he is crushing on you as well. Lucky couple, aren't you! Now the question to be tossed around the house between you and Jim, in light of this blog, is has Jim ever kissed your son on the lips? If so, when did it end, and why? Let's get Jim into this conversation. Jim, are you out there??? (RL, don't take this as your cue to runaway though. I will be visiting your blog) -- J.W. ***

Congrats on yoiur new blog. I hope you are going to pay some attention to the "M" word, "minority," one of the most divisive words going and used by everybody including the victims. I don't understand why so many of us who should know better permit America to be divided into two groups: whites and "minorities (evrybody who is not white)." I consider the "M" wotrd up there with the "N" word and Don Imus' nappy-brained comments. What do you think. And thanks for doing this blog. Peace, my brother.


*** You can rest assure we will cover quite a bit of territory on this blog. I am sure though that if I don't take you where you want to go, you will force the issue. Good looking out, though! -- J.W. ***

My Gosh JW you think too much sometimes-- have you considered that you even thought about the plausible impropriety of kissing your son on the lips masks a latent fear of something else??? It's what we don't say that says volumes sometimes, isn't it? I guess I am a little surprised that a person who works so hard to break down all sorts of social barriers (and I believe you do) and prejudices gets a bit hung up on how he should express love and affection towards his son.


*** Southern Yankee, how nice of you to join the conversation! That being said, SY, my man, it's a blog. I am supposed to think and put thoughts out there. That's what I do. And yes, I have taken Psychology 101 and know that my admitting a concern about kissing my son might suggest something about me, perhaps something latent. I have read Freud! It also might suggest some other things, like I am trying to get people to think about how why we respond or don't respond to certain things in our society; I am trying to get people to know that they are not alone in being anxious about certain acts that we do that may or may not appear normal. Just because your level of sophistication on this subject or subjects like this is more heightened than most and that you are surprised by my actions doesn't negate the fact that there is a method to my madness. -- J.W. ***

I commend you for doing the right thing, and showing your son equal affection! When my children were babies, they always started giving the big old slobbery kiss on the mouth. I know I am not alone in that, I have seen many parents and babies enjoy this display of affection. I never gave kissing my daughter or son on the lips a second thought. When my son turned 6 he decided that it was kiss on the cheek time. I let my children make the decision on how they wanted to express their affection, just as I did when they were babies. I must admit though, I was very happy when getting a kiss from my children also meant it didn't have to come with a towel! My daughter is almost 10 and my son is 8 and they never miss a chance giving dear old dad a kiss, (though it is on the cheek now). However if they wanted to give a "lip kiss" , I would enjoy that show of affection as well. I really don't care what other people think, these are my children and I love them dearly. I feel sorry for any parent who is afraid to show thier children affection based on perceived social standards.
Ron

*** Ron, I commend you as well, and very much agree with you. It is a sad state of affairs when we are adversely influenced by various norms of society that contribute to our being dysfunctional in our interactions with others. Unfortunately, if we stop and do a self survey, most of us have experienced that moment more often than we have realized. I shared one of my moments in the blog, but as a fairly introspective guy, I continue to experience them, process them, and grow from them. Stay tuned to future blog conversations if you have time. More of those moments will be revealed. Thanks for joining the conversation. -- J.W. ***

There are several times when my logic conflicted with my social conditioning. For example, there have been several times when my social conditioning told me I should kick the *&$^$#%*^!!!!! out of one or both of them and throw their &$%#&&*$(*$& no good *$^$#*%&$&!!!! out!
But my logic told me that violence is not an appropriate problem-solver and jail is not a very fun place to spend ones time!
Very conflicted.

*** Card Buddy, it is obvious that we need to buy you a new deck of cards. If you can focus on cutting and dealing, perhaps even counting the cards it may assist you in releasing some of that steam that builds up from the kids. However, don't get it twisted, as a parent, I have been there, and will be there again. Why do you think I write blogs? You escape the offspring anyway you can! -- J.W. ***

Touche' JW-- sorry if I sounded a bit harsh-- I was just a bit surprised (no, it was more like shock :-)) by your tale-- If that gets you, and others, uptight I can only imagine what a discussion about your child sharing your bed with you will elicit. Whatcha think? SY

*** Southern Yankee, my brother, I am not tripping the small stuff. We have a rapport already, so I don't think we have to tiptoe around passionate conversation. On the children invading/storming the bedroom while we are knocked out, dead to the world, man we don't have the time for that one. But it sounds like a hearty breakfast or lunchtime discussion, if you pick up the tab (smile)! -- J.W. ***

JW, I am new to your blog and just wanted to comment. My youngest boy will be 21 in a couple weeks. When he was a young lad it was customary in our house that he always got a "peck" be it on the lips or the cheek and a big ole' hug ending with I love you. Although the kissing is long since gone it is still a custom with my boys whenever they see the old man I thankfully am greeted with a big ole' bear hug and I love you. Well you know what? Both are very well grounded, with excellent women in their lives and I love them too!!! By the way the oldest is 35.


*** Randy, welcome to the blog. I am hoping that as my son ages the affection he has for the old man doesn't wane. You should be proud of your ability to have nurtured a loving relationship that has sustained itself for 35 years. Sometimes I would settle for three days in a row! -- J.W. ***.

J.W.-

I think you did the right thing in kissing your son. He now knows that you love him and can show affection for him the same as with your wife and daughter. He may or may not be back for kissing on the lips again. This may certainly change once he gets to an age when he and his friends can discuss such things as sons and fathers kissing on the lips. It will be contextual according to his age and comforatbility toward you. Tim Dodd said it right - don't sweat the small stuff. It is great that you put that much thought into interactions with your children and empathize with them at when they are at such a young age. Many parents probably don't empathize with children enough. Bravo!

*** Tracy, first let me acknowledge that you are the first woman to enter the blogosphere! Welcome!!! You and Tim are correct, I will attempt to not sweat the small stuff. However, the whole purpose of the blog is to elevate certain things that we relegate to small or deem insignificant. Anxiety over an intimate moment with our sons isn't necessarily earth shattering, but on some level, it can be a bit disconcerting to even process how and why anxiety would even visit a moment like that. Having said all of that though, thank you for the compliment about my empathy towards my children. I have no doubt that my empathy is a direct result of my lack of a relationship with my father. I imagine we will explore the impact of parents on our lives as we explore diversity and notions of social justice. -- J.W. ***

In your reply to my post you assumed that I am a woman. I am a 32 year old man who attends Plattsburgh State and has a three and a half year old daughter. I kiss her on the lips. I realize that what you were talking about was a man kissing his son on the lips, but I can relate.

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