You may or may not have seen the recent hoo-hah over a picture that Victoria Beckham released of herself and her daughter. If you didn’t, here’s a quick recap. The Beckhams, being uber famous, try and avoid paparazzi (and potential kidnap attempts) by once in a while releasing approved pictures of themselves and their children. This one featured VB and her daughter in a swimming pool. The hoo hah has been because her daughter is kissing VB on the lips. Many slightly hysterical commentators have suggested that this is completely inappropriate.
It does get to something when a natural gesture between two close family members is examined for shock value. Having no interest in pop music, fashion or football, I’m not too bothered by the Beckhams but they’ve always come across to me as very loving parents, with a strong family ethos.
The wrong issues are being examined here. I can only imagine anyone who objects to a young child kissing her mother on the lips is either a hypocrite or utterly joyless.
E is still at this stage – she’s very loving and affectionate and demonstrates this physically, including lots of kisses, some on the lips. I know that in many ways, she’s copying what she sees between S and I – when we greet each other, say goodbye, or just feel like a hug. It’s natural to kiss those you love, yes? So she does. I would never reject these kisses. I would never tell her that it’s wrong or an invalid emotion.
The main issue is one of consent. When she gets to the point (I know it’s coming) where she doesn’t want to give kisses, it’s important not to make her. For me or anyone else, grandparents, aunts and so on. Equally, I need to make it clear that she will need to ask other people if they want her to kiss them, and ask their consent before showing affection.
It comes down to how much we want to dampen our children’s natural instincts. I had this in a different way the other day at the hospital. E’s clothes had been cut off her in the ambulance and we had nothing with us. The nurses found us a pair of spare pants and a tiny hospital gown. Those gowns all do up badly at the back with a few tabs. This was the same but she liked it and ran down to the ECG department with it streaming out behind her, flashing her undies but happily jumping on coloured dots on the floor, completely confident in her body and happy.
We came down to a busy part of the hospital where, a passer by told us, lots of prisoners sat. (Alone? Unguarded? Really?) Also, you know, just lots of other people.
There are very real safeguarding issues. I am well aware of these. All parents are. But to tell her to cover up and be ashamed of her body suddenly wakes an awareness of appearance that I don’t think should be a consideration for a 4 year old. God knows we’re going to have to deal with body confidence at some point. But if you can avoid making it an issue early on, then I believe you should. So I picked her up and pulled her slightly exposed back to me until we were in a quiet corridor.
Awareness and making sense of how you are viewed is all part of growing up. Mostly it’s horrible. But I’m pretty sure that the issues surrounding this, and around safeguarding, are all hopelessly mixed up with an unhealthy dollop of misogyny and god knows what else mixed in. I’m not ready to deal with it yet. I doubt very much if E is. Or VB’s daughter. So can we all stop judging now?