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Why I Kiss the Boo-Boos

Photograph by Getty Images

I just tried something radical with my 4-year-old daughter, and it lead to one of the most powerful parenting moments of my life. It wasn’t a big moment—it was a little one—but in that quiet moment I learned a lesson that I seem to need to relearn every single day.

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My daughter was crying because she pinched her finger in a door. Before I could offer the “big guns” like Band-Aids and ice packs, I held her hand and kissed it. That kiss, the most iconic motherly gesture, is the same kiss I’ve doled out to my injury-prone daughter hundreds of times.

But she’s getting older and simple platitudes like “kisses will make it feel better” do not appease her. In fact, as I kissed her finger, she growled at me, “Why do you kiss it? It doesn’t make it feel any better.”

Before blurting out some meaningless gibberish about how kisses do make you feel better, I took her question at face value. I mean, the kiss probably didn’t make her finger feel better, so why do I do it? Just because it seems like something mothers do? Because I am “supposed” to do that?

It felt good to tell her something true and meaningful about a gesture that is almost devoid of meaning.

I thought about it for another beat, and then I gave her a real, non-BS answer. “I kiss your boo-boos so that you know that someone cares that you are hurting. It may not make it feel better, but at least you know you are not alone in the pain.”

She wasn’t impressed with my answer, but I was. There are so many parts of my motherhood that are automatic: the kids are hungry, I get them a snack; they hurt themselves, I kiss the boo boo. On and on, I do the things that I assume mothers are “supposed” to do. I felt so much closer to my daughter thinking about why I was kissing her boo-boo and what it meant to mean to join her in her pain. It felt good to tell her something true and meaningful about a gesture that is almost devoid of meaning.

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So often when my daughter asks me questions, I think I have to come up with great answers that will blow her little mind. I feel pressure to have the exact right words, when really, the simple truth is more than good enough.

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