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A Kiss is Just a Kiss

Posted Jan 21 2009 12:00am
Kisses range from a peck on the cheek to a passionate embrace. Every human wants kisses in some form or another. We want kisses from our lovers, mates, spouses, siblings, crazy aunts and uncles, old friends and anyone else. We also want kisses from our parents (until we are about 9 years old and then again after about age 20), and kisses from our kids, even when they do not want them from us.

For most people, there is nothing simpler than a kiss. However, that is not true for everybody. For some, kissing is just another complex motor function their body cannot coordinate. Maggie falls into the latter, more exclusive category.

What do you do if your child cannot kiss? How do you kiss her if cannot stand to have anything touch her face? What do you do if she grimaces wildly every time you try to kiss her?
Well, I do not know what YOU would do, but I kiss her anyway. And she figures out a way to kiss me back.

Like many people with cerebral palsy and vision issues, Maggie has tactile defensiveness. She is just not used to things touching her and it freaks her out a little bit. Part of that is visual. She cannot really see the touch coming and it takes her by surprise. I was asking Maggie’s physical therapist for additional insight into this. She told me that as babies we explore our face, chew on our hands, eat food, and have all the normal experiences that sort of desensitize the face. As a normal part of development, we just get used to things touching our face and it does not bother us. However, a child with a motor impairment like cerebral palsy is not moving like other children and the hands are not going to the face. In addition, in Maggie’s case, she has always been tube fed so she never experienced things touching her mouth. We did many therapy type things for this when she was little, but you cannot replace the natural development of things.

Like so many other parts of her life, we have figured out how to adapt.

Now I just warn her that I am going to give her a kiss. She still grimaces, but she laughs right after. Sometimes I ask her permission and she always says yes (well, almost always). Then she sort of braces herself and wrinkles up her face. When I make the same face at her, she laughs again. I tell her I KNOW you love this. She does, but she cannot help her physical reaction to it.

As for giving kisses, that is still a complex motor function that she cannot do. Maggie almost never closes her mouth, and puckering? Fageddaboudit.

That does not mean she doesn’t give her own form of kisses, though. Maggie’s “kiss” is to put her hand on my lips and allow me to kiss it. She is like the Pope offering his ring.

Even this is a complicated motor function, but one she has mastered. Still, it takes a lot of concentration; you can see it in the picture. I swear she's happy.

It’s different, but no less heartfelt. Even if she still makes a face.

The song A Time Goes By says it best
You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss…

And that is plenty for me.
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