I Hate Kisses
by Susan Lewis
Condensed from Parents Express
as printed in Readers Digest April 1993
Bedtime, and the house is almost quiet. The baby's asleep in his crib. In
the room next door, his brother and sister flop down on their pillows. The
little girl and her Cinderella doll prefer to sleep with sheets and blankets
bunched at their feet. The older brother loves covers, both to keep warm and
as a hiding place for proton pack and other ghost-trapping equipment he
may need when the lights go out.
I push the hair from the girls face and give her a soft good-night kiss.
Eyes closed, thumb in motion, she is nearly asleep. Her brother lies quietly,
contemplating the toy soldiers that stand guard on the bedside table. I smile
and lean down to kiss him. But as I draw near, he turns a startled face to me
and dives under the covers. The muffled words plead: "Don't KISS ME!"
My five year-old defender of the world from ghosts and goblins hates kisses.
What is a kiss, anyway? A pucker, a smooch, a brushing of lips. There
are passionate kisses and polite kisses, long heartfelt kisses and short pecks.
There are kisses you anticipate all evening long and those that take you by
surprise. But I am talking about the kind of kiss that is as involuntary as
breathing - a parent's kiss for a child.
Once upon a time my kisses were magical. They could heal scraped
knees and bruised egos, warm cold fingers and dampened spirits. Recently,
though, they are anathema, to be avoided like ghostly slime, and kryptonite
and green vegetables. My little halfback does an end run around my out-
stretched arms. If I catch him off guard, he groans and wipes the spot with a
fury that would shame Lady Macbeth.
"I'm sorry, I forgot," I say as he comes in the door from school. "Why do
you hate kisses, anyway?"
"Because they're yucky," he says, sighing and unzipping his fighter pilot
"Why are they yucky?" I persist, pulling a sleeve off his arm.
"Because they're wet," he snaps, pulling off his other sleeve and
disappearing down the hall, leaving me with an empty jacket and the image
of a baby-sitter I had as a child. I can't remember her name, but let's call her
I remember Mrs. Down as old and bent over-at least 35 years old. Before
she left for the day, my mother would say, "Now give Mrs. Down a kiss
Kissing Mrs. Down was pretty awful, but getting her kiss back was even
worse. Wet and slobbery. "You kiss like a dog," I once told her matter-of-factly.
The fighter pilot has finished his bath and is putting on Superman
pajamas. Kneeling in front of him, I throw a towel on his head and start
drying his hair.
"Danny," I say, looking him in the eye, "can I have one quick kiss?"
He studies me as one might a slow learner. "I hate kisses."
"Even from me?"
"But isn't your mom the one person who can give you a kiss now and
He puts his hands on my cheeks and leans toward me until our faces
almost touch. His unblinking blue eyes peer into mine, and he whispers
softly, "Only when I'm bleeding." Then he steps back and grins.
It is our secret. There is still some magic left.