My daughter has hit the stage where she wants everything to be a family. She must have three of everything, so there can be a mommy, daddy and baby. A family of stuffed teddy bears, a family of hearts she drew. It’s a little like Goldilocks, there should always be three in descending size. She’s even a little peeved with Disney movies lately because they rarely have a mother and a father. Perhaps most telling, since Brenna is an only child, if there is another sibling, she refers to them as “friend.” So her dollhouse has Mommy, Daddy, Baby and Friend, and she plays with them all the time.

Recently, while playing with the dollhouse, Daddy was leaving for work. He gave Baby a kiss on the forehead and then proceeded to kiss Mommy for about 10 minutes. There Brenna sat, smashing the dolls together and making kissy noises, because apparently Mommy’s and Daddy’s make out every time they say goodbye. And to be completely honest, she’s not entirely wrong. According to Brenna’s experience, Mommy and Daddy don’t part with a quick peck on the cheek. We stand up, put our arms around each other and kiss. We don’t actually make out in front of our daughter, there’s never any tongue. But we also don’t shy away from expressing our affection simply because little eyes are watching us.
After the dollhouse incident, my husband and I sat down to talk about the appropriateness of our physical displays of affection. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about anything sexual. We would never grope each other in front of our daughter. But it’s not abnormal for my husband’s arm to be around me. Or for me to hug him when he enters the room I’m in. Or for us to kiss for no reason. We’re newlyweds, after all.

While I routinely saw my parents kiss, hold hands and cuddle, my husband admitted that he had never seen his parents be particularly affectionate. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it would thoroughly freak out my husband and his siblings to see their parents throw their arms around each other. With my parents, it wouldn’t seem abnormal at all. So, how detrimental is it to see your parents kiss?

My husband and I would give very different answers, mostly because we were raised in very different households. Personally, I grew up learning that kissing or cuddling were physical expressions of love. And my parents, for thirty years now, have loved each other with all their hearts. I’ve always felt extremely lucky to have that example. My in-laws have been married over forty years now, and they are no less committed to each other. But for them, physical affection is completely private. And yet, their children never doubted that they loved each other. My husband, like me, has always felt lucky to have parents who love each other unconditionally.

As Brenna grows up, I really hope that our affectionate ways don’t change. I hope we can teach Brenna that physical displays of love aren’t wrong when you have strong and deep feelings for someone. I hope she learns that there are different kinds of love and different ways of expressing it. And just as much as I hope my daughter appreciates our lovey-dovey junk, I hope my husband and I never get past the point where we want to kiss each other every time we enter the same room.

So what do you think? Is it appropriate to kiss and hug in front of your children? Or should all affection take place behind closed doors?