He comes running at me with open arms and I bend down for a nuzzle, for who would refuse a three-year-old’s embrace? But then I see he is puckering up and is aiming for the lips and I start to panic. This may not be the nicest response from a grandmother for I do love my grandchildren. I love them on the changing table. I love their stinky socks. I love their shoes full of sand they dump on the rug.
I love their messes, but I fear their juices. Especially this time of year when every grandparent knows that even the most adorable of creatures are made of mucous.
That got me to thinking that maybe we need to teach small children to air kiss, to go cheek to cheek, kiss-kiss, like the French and other Europeans, which might limit our exposure to germ central.
Problem is I never can remember if you’re supposed to start on the right or the left when doing the two-cheek peck. My California friend Caitlin who runs an inn in the Dordogne part of France says she tends to aim left, but finds it often a random and individual decision. She opts to lean forward and tries to sense where the other is heading. Following the other’s lead, like in ballroom dancing.
She said little French kids adapt the two- cheek kiss early, but she’s not sure if that has any impact on the French flu and cold season.
I grew up in a family which pretty much limited hugs and kisses to a few friends and relatives. But I’m a Californian where everyone is a liberal when it comes to hugging. Our grandkids are natural born huggers and kissers. They get together and trade slurpy kisses, piling on each other like puppies. In fact the 16-month-old kind of kisses like a dog, sticking out his tongue to lick a favorite face.
They are a delight but in winter I must think of them as Sneezy, Wheezy and Drippy.
I was encouraged to read lately that cold and flu experts say the nose is deadlier than the mouth in terms of germ passing. The quantity of virus on the lips and mouth is less than the nasal juices. That actually makes kisses safer than sneezes.
In this department there has been progress. Many adults grew up being told only to “cover your mouth” when hit by a sneeze or cough, which is fine but then you have to do clean-up on your hands. Today’s kids are trained to go one better. They use their elbow to capture the spray. This is known as the Dracula sneeze, the sleeve sneeze and the elbow sneeze.
This avoids blasting everyone in close range and is hygienically superior to exploding into your hand. Two of our three grandkids have mastered this, probably because their mother, an elementary school teacher, pretty much spends the cold season reminding all people, small and big, to go for the elbow.
The toddler grandkid is too young for that lesson and still delivers his ka-choos with abandon. But he has good role models and hopefully will soon be sneezing into his sleeve. We grandparents are also trying to remember to use our elbows. And keeping our hands and mouths to ourselves. With all that, plus hand sanitizer and a flu shot we all may make it to spring and the kissing season.