Two of my grandsons have decided to make a game out of not kissing Juju. Kegan, the youngest, was always a bit shy so I would send messages that I was saving up lots of kisses for the next time I saw him. He was patient and a bit stoic when I bestowed those kisses. The last time his family was here, as they prepared to leave, his mom and sister came and hugged me. Kegan stood by the desk with that sly grin he has and asked, “What?” He knew perfectly well we were all waiting for him to give me a hug and a kiss. I bluffed through it and got my love.
Jacob is another matter. When he was young, he would kiss anybody and everybody on the mouth. But he’s a fourth-grader now, doesn’t even like to be hugged in public. He hugs me when he comes in and when he leaves—often sort of a passive hug. But a kiss? Never. If I do score one on his cheek, he wipes it off with his hand.
The other day his other grandparents were here. Nana asked for a kiss, and he kissed her on the mouth. I said, “Jacob Burton!” and he came over, put an arm around me, and said, “You’re mad, aren’t you?” I said, “No, not mad. Just jealous.” He was quite affectionate the rest of the day and late that night when they were going home, I asked for a kiss and he kissed me on the mouth—didn’t even wipe it off. We joked about it with his dad, and I opened my arms and said, “Come here and let me hug you”-no kisses.
His older cousin, Sawyer, has always been a great kisser and at eleven continues to be. Sawyer’s younger brother, Ford, settles for hugs.
I don’t want my grandchildren kissing Coxey’s Army but I think it’s sad that somewhere along the way they lose that natural affection. I think it’s because they become so conscious of what others are thinking. I was going to write that I thought perhaps we taught young boys ideas of masculinity that excluded affection, but I’m not sure that’s it. My granddaughters all give tight, loving hugs but they don’t kiss.
I guess it’s a function of growing up, not gender roles, but doesn’t fourth grade sound a little early? I’m always threatening to put a brick on their heads to keep them from growing. It earns me puzzled looks. I am so proud of the way all seven are growing and becoming, but a small part of me wants them to be toddlers forever.