I have to admit, I am an affectionate mother. I love nothing more than to cuddle with my babies. I want to smother them with kisses. I want to chew on their toes. I want to pat and pinch and squeeze and tickle them. But my children's feelings have to come first.
From the time she was a little baby, Birdie didn't want to be touched too much. She didn't want to be held. She didn't want to be rocked to sleep. She would scream and cry the entire time she was in my arms. But once I laid her in her crib she would fall right to sleep. I realized that kissing and cuddling were fulfilling my needs, but ignoring hers. At a young age she had set a boundary with me and I needed to respect it.
Last night as Birdie was getting ready for bed I leaned in to kiss her goodnight. Her eyes got big and she held out her hand, "Bubble, MOM! Personal bubble!"
Just like when she was a baby, my first reaction was to be hurt. But I quickly squashed it down. This wasn't about me. "Baby," I said, "Thank you for reminding me. You have every right to not want to be kissed. You have the right to tell me, Daddy, Grandma or Grandpa, or anyone else that you don't want kisses or hugs. Your bubble is yours alone and you get to decide who can come in and who can't." She smiled at me and I saw her body relax.
My children should all have this lesson. While some may feel that they have the right to kiss and hug as much as they want, my children need to know that they have control over their bodies. They need to know that others need permission to enter their space. It is a privilege not a right.
So this holiday, remember. If a child does not want to kiss Grandma, or Uncle Joe, please don't make them. Respect your child and their caution. And they will learn to respect their own inner voices.
A while after our discussion, Birdie came and gave me a hug. She pulled my face down to her level and kissed my cheek and said, "I love you, Mommy." And that freely given kiss was the best kiss ever.