Growing up greeting people properly was very important for my family. "Vaya, dale un beso." "Saludo a tu Tío con un beso y abrazo." For the most part, I didn't mind doing these things since my family always kissed everyone they greeted. Growing up in Brooklyn to Cuban parents, it meant that I was preserving part of my culture.
I have kids now who are being brought up in a different culture. My husband is American of Portuguese descent and we are Muslim. Opposite gender greetings are limited to saying, "Asalaamu alaykum," peace be upon you at a very far distance. For kids, it's a bit different. They are young and people love to give them affection.
My kids, especially my daughter does not like when people kiss her. Azalea has no problem telling people and running away. I wish she didn't, I wish she would just feel comfortable giving her salaams or saying, "hola" but she doesn't and I have to respect that. As her mom, I inform my relative that she does not like to give kisses and they shouldn't persist in giving her one. It is my duty to protect her and also empower her in having control of her body.
As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know too well, that there are people who cross this line. What happened to me as a child affected my response to men's sexual advances as I got older. This is part of my childhood that I do not I want repeated with my kids.
As people are slowly sharing their stories about being affected by sexual violence, more parents are trying to find alternatives to forced kissing and hugging. Even the Girls Scouts of America is advising parents not to make their kids greet in this way.
One of the first books I put into the Booklandia Spanish Picture Books Box for toddlers and preschoolers was Ati y su caja de besos by Elena Laguarda, María Fernanda Laguarda and Regina Novelo Quintana with illustrations by Alejandra Kurtycz.
I LOVE this book and I was so excited to find it. Ati is a young dragon who has an aunt who gives him kisses and he doesn't like it. His grandmother helps him deal with this issue by creating a box of kisses. They built a box and then cut out a bunch of lips and colored them. The lips represented kisses were put in the box. When Ati went back to see his aunt and all the other aunty dragons in the room he gave out his "kisses" and they all loved it and thought it was sweet.
I really liked this alternative because it respected the child's decision not give an actual kiss and hug but followed the general principles of greeting. The box doesn't have to be filled with kisses, it could be paper flowers, or small hearts or anything else a child wants to offer. The book also offers conversation tools for educators and parents.
Don't you want to build a box now?
How do you deal with forced kisses and hugs? What's your take on it?
If you would like a copy of Ati y su caja de besos order a Booklandia Spanish Picture Books Box and let me know you want this book in the notes section.