Friday, 30 May 2014


I know… very schmaltzy… but still … a subject very close to my heart.

In a recent blog on touch, I didn’t mention kisses (or holding hands for that matter). So I thought I would redress the balance with this post.

Two thousand kisses as day is the intriguing title of a book by L.R. Knost; the premise being that it is the number of kisses that an average infant receives a day, through being cuddled, breastfed etc. The number decreases over the years, as the child grows more and more independent.

Well, obviously many of our adopted children probably didn’t get that two thousand allowance when they should have. I tend to think that most of them are still in the red on that score.

I’ve seen photos of adopted children with their birth parents, and it is the ones where they kiss their children that have made the deepest impression on me. These can be photos of genuine, boundless love. I think they are particularly powerful for their children as well, since they may be able to see and believe the birth parents' love for them, thereby anchoring this very feeling inside them. Along side the love of and for their adoptive parents. The same goes for photos of foster parents and their foster children, I might add. Once again Digger has been lucky. He was a kissed tirelessly and lovingly by his foster mum Rosa. And by her family and friends. We have the photos to prove it.

But I didn’t get to give Digger his thousands of kisses a day. I still feel I am making up for lost time; that is those first ten months we weren’t there. I don't think I have ever quite managed two thousand in one day. But I have managed hundreds. Often placing a dozen in quick succession, somewhere on his body. His feet, his tummy, his forehead, his cheek. Anywhere soft and warm and Digger-licious.

The sling is an excellent place to sneak in a few more. Digger is at head height, ‘close enough to kiss’ as the instructions go on how to place an infant in a sling. But sadly and surely he is growing out of it. Now at 32 months we use it only when he is ill, very physically exhausted or on a rare occasion when he wants to be extra close.

These days, Digger is full to the brim with love, and we are on the propitious receiving end of hugs and kisses. He places kisses on our toes, on our heads and so on. Big MMMMaoOws. Big wet sloppy ones. And it feels gooood! I speak for both me and Pierre when I say we have never known love as unconditional as our love for Digger. Kissing and hugging is showing that love.

Kissing can be magic too. Ouwie’s are kissed better all the time in our house. His little legs carry the hallmarks of most 2 year-old boys: they are always covered in numerous bruises in various shades of blackness. So we kiss each of them every night. Yesterday Digger bashed his fingers with a sizable stone. So hard we both thought ‘OOutch… that had got to hurt’ and we prepared ourselves for the almighty wail to follow. But he looked at his finger, then held it up for Daddy to kiss better, received the kiss and returned to play. Digger kisses our ouwies too. And yes, oddly it does kinda work!

Then there are other types of kisses. He loves the delicate, but oh-so-tickly butterfly kisses, the fluttering on eyelashes on his eyelids. And he loves the rubbing noses. Or toe kissing. (To you and me that is just rubbing your toes together. Works with fingers too.)  He is creative and we take his lead. Or we butt in and make something up. Depending on the moment.

Some of these kisses are also good to break the ice if he has been angry. Perhaps he isn't ready for usually kissing, as in touching with lips. Often it is enough to kiss a finger tip, and then to transfer that kiss to anywhere on his body. The non-lip kisses can be good to show respectful distance while still being affectionate. Like blowing kisses. Great way to avoid a hug if you are not up for it...

So … who else benefits? you might ask. Well, many people. He kisses other children if he feels they have been nice to him. (And he pushes them etc, if they encroach on his space or his things – he is two after all).

We might suggest a kiss for someone, but we never force. I have to admit that I am relieved when he withholds kisses. Pouting to kiss is cute and sweet and everything. But he should always be in charge. ‘Cause where would it lead if I forced Digger to kiss when he really doesn’t want to? Whatever the reason this is his body.

There is something about the boundaries of the giving and receiving of kisses that seem significant for an adopted soul like Digger. Kids are so cute when they do kiss us or each other. But I feel we must be extra careful not to cajole adopted children into kissing or cuddling. So many of them had their boundaries physically and psychologically invaded, and their sense of self has been so fundamentally uprooted and transplanted. Taking the long view kissing is about sex and sexuality, and about having healthy respectful relationship with that. We should be able to handle the disappointment, or hurt, when they don't want to kiss us. And be extra happy when they do. 
A spontaneous hug or kiss is all sweeter when it is given just for the sake of it.

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