The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

A goodnight kiss gone forever

There comes a point in most boys’ lives when they no longer feel comfortable giving their father a kiss goodnight before heading for bed.

I have vivid snapshot in my head of the moment I decided I was too old to kiss my dad. I guess I must have been around 10 years old - the surrounding details are hazy - but I can remember quite clearly standing in the doorway about to leave the room when my mum said “are you not going to kiss your father goodnight?” and I said no.

I cannot tell you why, other than I was aware that it had been feeling less and less comfortable to do so each night. My heart was beating fast as on some semi-subconscious level I realised that this was some kind of turning point, and I had no idea how my parents were going to react.

In the end they didn’t do much. My mother said “ok then” and I have the impression that my father rolled his eyes, but I didn’t hang around in case it got even more embarrassing. As a child, you never really think of your parents as vulnerable people with feelings and it certainly never occurred to me that my father might be hurt or upset by my actions.

Well the other night came full circle as my own son refused to give me a goodnight kiss before heading for bed. He’s clearly become more uncomfortable displaying affection over the past several months and there was a sense of inevitability that this moment would come. I can still force a hug out of him, but it is stilted. The testosterone is starting to increase with the onset of early puberty and my little boy is on his path to manhood. From this point on, for the next few years, other males will be seen in terms of rivalry, rather than warm affection.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties, and I was heading off to Dundee to study philosophy at university that I started giving my father a hug again. Initially he was awkward and stilted about it, but now it’s natural enough when we meet up.

My only hope is that it doesn’t take as long as another 15 years before my son is prepared to display a relaxed affection for his father again.

11 comments

kats said...

Oh, the joys of being female - you can still kiss yer Dad!

Kats:0)

Dr Maroon said...

There is a poignancy to your postings sometimes (yesterday’s excepted) such that I may send you my designs for a light-box. Your American readers should know that we have had a prolonged period of the crappiest weather and a time change to contend with. Also, Scots tend to be from the brisk handshake school of tactility. We have a large kinematic envelope.
It’s the old chestnut :
“Did you hear about the Scotsman that loved his wife so much that he told her?”

El-Branden Brazil said...

We still have baths together!!!




......Only kidding, just in case!

Kim Ayres said...

Kats - you're right - it is a uniquely male phenomenon.

Dr Maroon - I love that quote and will now be looking for an opportunity to use it.

Don't worry though, I'm not feeling too melancholic. There was a time when something like this would have made me brood on it for days. Now, however, I experience the pang, write a blog entry and I'm fine the next day.

The light box sounds interesting though, if it wasn't just part of a light hearted quip, my e-mail address is in my blogger profile.

Branden - I always envied your family's closeness ;)

El-Branden Brazil said...

Come in the hot top with us! You know you're always welcome!!!

Lord Lessismore said...

Your post gave me a little heart pang, Kim. My dad's been dead for four years and only in the last 5 years or so of his life did we get comfortable enough with each other to exchange hugs. I miss the old guy some times...

With four kids of two different sexes (none of the elusive third variety...), I've seen a couple of variations on this. My eldest girl stopped being cuddly and giving hugs as part of asserting her independence at 7 or 8. Now that she's 12, there's some occasional vulnerability and she'll give a hug and an "I love you" out of nowhere. Even more poignant: when she clearly wants/needs a hug but is too proud to ask or offer one. Girl #2 has always been very affectionate and it hasn't changed since she was 2. My eldest boy (5) has never been a kisser/hugger virtually since he popped out but just recently, out of nowhere, he'll demand to give me a hug and kiss before I go off to work. My youngest boy (<2) gives the PHONE a hug and kiss if he's talking to me or his mum so I'm thinking he'll be a cuddly one.

Good luck traversing these emotional highs-n-lows! Your post was a reminder to me about how, once you have a kid, your heart lives outside your body, making it much more vulnerable.

BStrong said...

That's just one more reason I want my kids to take their time growing up. Even though their resistance to show affection is completely natural it still must be difficult to deal with.

If you ever need to see affection from Rogan I guess you could always use bribery.

B

Kim Ayres said...

Lord Lessismore - Thank you for sharing more details of your family life.

I tend to think of the fact that I am a father as just one aspect of my life, but I took a quick glance back through my blog earlier today and noticed that I write about it more than any other topic. I suppose it's the area of my life that concerns me the most, and of course occupies more time than anything else.

I do love to hear how other guys in my age bracket (30s & 40s) deal with the whole raft of emotions that we were never given any training for.

We spend the non-father parts of manhood learning how to create protective barriers around our emotions, and then once we become dads, as you say, suddenly our hearts our outwith us where everything we've learned no longer applies.

Please keep the comments coming and/or post more on your own site.

bstrong - bribery, guilt trips, threats, tricks, cons, I use them all, but the wee rascal is becoming more sophisticated and wise to most of my repertoire!

Andraste said...

I'm female, and for years showing affection for the paternal progenitor was extremely tough. So I know whereof Kim speaks. Today, he's so freakin' old and frail, and I've grown up a fair bit, so it comes much more naturally. The old dear. I've come full circle on it, in short.

Daxohol said...

Hey, visiting through Favorite Bath Time Giggles!

What a great post and discussion!
My little guy is a year and a half and I think my husband would die if he couln't hug him anymore! It's really amazing how affectionate they are!

This kinda got me thinking about the level of affection I am able to show my dad and why...it's always been awkward between is for years...interesting topic...

Kim Ayres said...

Andraste and Daxohol - Welcome to my ramblings, and thank you both for taking the time to comment!

If you enjoyed this post, then you might want to take a look at Father & Son, http://kimayres.blogspot.com/2005/10/father-and-son.html if you've not already read it

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