Belfast Telegraph

David Beckham kissing his daughter Harper on the lips isn't 'creepy' ... it's the most natural thing in the world

Lucy Dixon

Piers Morgan called David Beckham "weird" and "creepy" for kissing his seven-year-old daughter, Harper, on the lips - and he's not the only one to think so. Social media is full of people trying to make a parent feel guilty for the simple act of showing their child affection.

Having my six-year-old son, George, kiss me on the lips is one of the uncomplicated joys of life, and I plan to carry on doing it several times a day for as long as he wants to.

Obviously, the moment George decides he doesn't want to smooch his mum on the lips, then I will, reluctantly, stop. Because, to me, George feeling comfortable expressing his feelings in this way is a sign of a healthy, loved little boy.

And it's not just because I am a woman. We should be equally relaxed about dads showing physical affection towards their children too - again, with the disclaimer that it is something the child wants to do.

For decades, we have wanted dads to loosen up and feel comfortable expressing their feelings.

There's clear evidence that our failure to accept male emotion leads to a culture of toxic masculinity, which can in the most extreme circumstances cause an increase in mental health issues and even suicide.

It can only be beneficial for men to be open and expressive about their feelings in this way. And when they do and figures like Piers try to make it into something to feel ashamed of, we should remember that kissing is just a sign of a completely normal bond between father and child, something to be cherished and celebrated.

George has been enthusiastically kissing family members - both male and female - on the lips since he was a toddler, and I would hate to think of the message it gave him if any of us suddenly said we didn't want him to.

It's how we greet each other after a long day at school and work; it's how we say good morning and goodnight.

These daily routines are made all the more precious with the addition of a kiss. Yes, I could just kiss him on the forehead, or on the cheek, but as long as he wants to plant a kiss firmly on my lips, I'm all for it.

It's worth examining what exactly these critics are alluding to by claiming this behaviour is "weird" and "creepy". The implication is that there's somehow a sexual undertone to a parent's physical contact with their child, which is not just offensive, but also damaging to children, whose behaviour should not be sexualised.

What exactly do those who are against kissing suggest parents do instead? A nice, firm handshake? A fist bump? How much contact is too much? Maybe I should just start waving at George from across the other side of the room?

The age of the child seems to matter to most people who are shocked by this - they think that, at seven years old, Harper Beckham is too old to engage in this behaviour.

One arbitrary line seems to be that, when a child starts school, such contact should be stopped.

No one seems to suggest that there's anything wrong with kissing a baby, or a toddler, on the lips, so exactly at what age should we start viewing parental contact as potentially sexualised?

A similar argument erupts every so often when a woman comes into public consciousness for breastfeeding a child for longer than society deems acceptable. Suddenly, what used to be considered a laudable act of parenting becomes something worthy of criticism and, once again, both the child and the mother are implicitly sexualised by the public in ways they never consented to.

This needs to stop. By pushing adult hang-ups and paranoia on children, we are, in fact, making our kids less safe and less confident in their own bodily autonomy.

I truly hope these ignorant and unfounded comments towards Beckham's affection for his daughter do not make any parents - particularly dads - back off when their kids approach for a kiss for fear of judgment.

A child growing up thinking it's wrong to kiss a parent would be a real tragedy.

Belfast Telegraph

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