Know how you can tell that to you, your kids are the cutest things on Earth? You let them kiss you no matter how disgusting those kisses might actually be.
Every parent knows what I am talking about. You have a toddler toddle over to you with their mouth wide open, ready to put their suction-cuppy He-Man villain face on your cheek. You let them do it and, inevitably, you wind up sopping wet. It’s adorable but also causes you to make a wincing face while eeking out a pained, “Thank you.”
You don’t want to run away and scream, “Ew! Get out!” For starters, that is the kind of thing that would carry over to their eventual grown-up serial-killer years. The main reason, though, is that you love those nasty little smooches because of what they stand for. They show you that you are loved and, as vile as they can be sometimes, you want them.
It’s not just slobber either. Sometimes your kids are just sticky for no reason. They’ll reach over and hold your hand, but their fingers meld to yours like Colorforms coated in Elmer’s glue. You don’t know what it is that’s causing the adhesion and, despite retching a bit on the inside, you thank them on the outside. It’s what parents do.
Most kids grow out of it – both the grossness and the overwhelming affection. My daughter did. Now, at 12, I have to beg for a half hug or a high five. She’s the one cringing. That’s just the circle of life and, one day, she’ll balance back out. In the meantime, her days of disgusting embraces are on indefinite hiatus.
My son, however, is an entirely different story.
Lucas is non-verbal with autism and has what some call “severe autism”. We don’t call it anything like that because we barely refer to it. It’s just who he is and we love him. There are, however, things he does that fall below his age range and certain ways that he interacts that don’t fall in line with how most people would expect a nine-year-old to behave. He struggles with some physical motions and has sensory issues that people outside the house might be surprised by.
I wrote about one of those sensory issues a few months back. He likes to munch blankets like chewing tobacco. In the absence of blankets, he will use his sleeves or a wayward piece of laundry he finds in the basket. Because of that, my little fella usually has a wet chin or, worse, a soaked blanket coming from his mouth.
Also, he loves me and goes out of his way to show it.
While there are people who assume that autism makes him adverse to affection, that’s not the case for my guy. He wants nothing more most times than to hug and kiss and tussle around. Many times, I’ll be sitting on the couch, minding my own business, when he will amble over with the drenched blankie swinging from his face. That’s when he does something that he’s been doing for years. Making perfect eye contact like he normally does (another thing that surprises people when they make autism assumptions), he starts to tap my arm. I smile as he leans closer, peering deep into my soul.
Tap, tap, tap.
Deeper stare. Leaning in further. Tap, tap, tap.
Hi Lucas. Hi.
And then, with the saturated piece of cloth falling from his mouth, he will press it against my cheek like a sponge bathed kiss. I want to cry tears of joy and disgust all at the same time.
Oh my God. Thank you, buddy. Thank you. Ugh.
Then he’ll walk away…and return a minute later to do it again…and again…and again. And I let him. Every time.
In the absence of a blanket, he has other ways of kissing that can be adorably gross too. You see, Lucas never figured out the pucker aspect of kissing. He doesn’t squeeze his lips or smack them together. Most of the time he just pushes his mouth on your face. But, at some point, he must have figured a new variation.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw it. He came trotting up to me with the tip of his tiny tongue sticking out from between his lips. It was a tiny pink upsidedown triangle slowly inching towards for my face. Everything inside me wanted to scream, “No!” But I didn’t. I clenched my eyes, laughed out loud, and said “thank you.”
The thing about the tongue is you never know when that particular peck is coming. It’s just one of his many versions and you just take them as they come. His kisses can be open mouth circles, pink triangles, or hanging wet sponge-bath blankets. Whichever you get in the moment, you get. And, as gross as they all are, I say thank you. I love them equally because they’re from him.
You don’t get to be a germaphobe when you have children. Sometimes the sweetest moments are the grossest. That’s how you know they’re cute and that’s how you know they love you. If a sopping wet cloth squished against my cheek doesn’t send me screaming into the night, nothing will. When it comes to my kids, I’ll take any kisses I can get.
READ NEXT: A Wonderful Thing About My Child’s Autism
(JG Note: For those who don’t know, I am the new Breaking News Analyst and a writer at BabyGaga.com, a site dedicated to pregnancy and new parents. From research studies to Chrissy Teigan, I’ve been covering it all. Please check it out and bookmark my author’s page at this link to see everything that I have been working on.)