By Amy M.
My son recently experienced his first kiss. He's 4. No, not 14. FOUR.
Just like a surly teenager, he did not tell me about the kiss himself. I learned about the display of affection from one of his preschool teachers. Apparently the teacher caught him kissing a little girl ON THE MOUTH.
True to the Montessori philosophy, she did not tell them what they did was bad, but that they were sharing bacteria and they don't do that in school. I couldn't help but bring it up with Alex. Apparently he had tried to kiss Annie (name changed for privacy) before, but he claims she turned her head. Heh, guess she wasn't fast enough this time.
They really are good friends, though. He talks about her all the time, and I have observed how much fun they have together. Annie's mother informed me that Annie now wants to marry Alex instead of her daddy.
The marriage thing is another issue. A couple months ago, Alex announced out of the blue that he had asked Annie to marry him and she said "Yes." But he claims to have another girlfriend, whom I'll call Ellie. Ellie and Annie do not know about each other. They were both at Alex's birthday party back in September, but that was when Ellie was his one and only. He sees Annie more often, so perhaps that is why "love" has blossomed between them. As long as Annie and Ellie don’t meet up on the playground, I think we're safe.
When I started to write about this, I planned to jokingly discuss my fears that I would need to give Alex condoms by his bar mitzvah. But after giving it a lot of thought, I realized that Alex's open displays of affection are really a good thing. Not that I'm going to encourage him to kiss any girl who lets him, but I'm happy he feels secure enough to be so free with his emotions.
He has always been that way -- laughing, loving and yelling with equal fervor. Of course it can be frustrating to his parents, but it's also refreshing -- at least when Alex is in a laughing or loving mood -- to be around someone who just feels. It doesn't matter to a 4-year-old what other people think. But to 32-year-olds like myself, it often matters too much.
I have seen Alex hug both his male and female friends. It's just what he does when he's happy to be with someone. And I'm glad he's comfortable doing it. Not many grown men would randomly envelop their pals in a bear hug. And a lot of women would feel awkward doing it, too.
For better or for worse, as kids get older, they too internalize the societal standards that restrict or minimize such open displays of affection.
That's why I'm really not concerned about "the kiss." Of course I don't want him to be disobeying school rules, but I think I have plenty of time before I have to worry about him getting frisky with the girls. I may feel differently once I have a daughter on the receiving end of an illicit peck. But at least she'll have her big brother to protect her.
Amy M. lives in Pennsylvania with her son and her husband. She works full time as a writer/editor for a large university.