She snuggled under the thick blanket, knowing well that she was already late for bedtime. Her mother glared at her, because she was still trying every trick in her book to prolong the inevitable. She needed to sleep, because half past ten was too late for a precocious 9 year old girl. She threw her last dice.
“Mama, can you and Papa please kiss? I wanna see you two behave like a real husband and wife…”
We both instantly knew what this was about even though it was a new trick. She has been getting night frights, which wasn’t really a surprise for us because this was a girl with a wild imagination, sometimes in overdrive. This coupled with her access to YouTube and short burst of Netflix meant for adults when she ‘accidentally’ walks into her sisters catching up with their horror fix, her conjuring scary images was not unexpected.
Being afraid of the dark meant she got to share the bed with me and her mother. This instantly meant that I had to find substitute sleeping arrangements from the ones I share with my beloved wife. After a week or so, this young daughter of ours, after successfully occupying my comfortable space with my lover, was supposedly hit with guilt that I was no more playing the role of a husband to her mother.
Hence, the request for a show of affection and intimacy.
We both smiled and obliged her very willingly. It wasn’t really something that we’ve kept hidden from our children since their births. I mean, we don’t get down and dirty in front of them, but a touch on the waist, holding hands, a peck on the cheek or on the neck was fairly par for course.
But this request of our daughter, even though cunning in intent to buy more time before forced bedtime, got me thinking. Are we, my wife and I, being a little too liberal exhibiting affection and intimacy to our children? Being of Asian and Punjabi background, modesty seemed like the overriding trait that we are supposed to exhibit. Dare I say, we have a somewhat conservative culture. I never saw my parents nor my uncles and aunts being openly affectionate with each other. Sure, there’s banter and there’s laughter back and forth between couples, which blanketed as a lack of animosity or dislike. If there was an argument, the making up was more vocal than physical.
But showing affection through physical touch, through affirmative sayings like “I love you” or “I’ve missed you” out in the open, in front of their children or with other family members, was very far in between. Perhaps it was the sign of the times then. While some of them seemed steep in the more liberal Western ideals and even Western education, almost all couples of past generations never embraced romantically in the open.
We do, however, have a lot of platonic embraces. Hugging is a big thing in our culture. Just observe our celebrations like weddings or birthdays.
Back to my question. I decided to test my elder daughters. How do they genuinely feel about our affectionate touches?
“Sometimes it’s just cringe lah Papa”, says the younger louder one. My surprised look gave her a more probing signal.
“I mean we can see lah when you guys kiss and giggle… and it’s honestly ok lah”, she recovers after a couple of seconds.
“Would you rather we don’t?” I took aim at the eldest, now a full blown sixteen year old teenager. “You know, like when me and Mama sometimes fight?”
She was more convincing and deliberate. “Of course not! We’re really used to it, especially when it’s just so normal in the tv shows we watch. So, I don’t even notice you guys anymore. I’d rather you be you, Papa. It’s cool”
I was satisfied with this answer but even more proud with her matured response, and her respect for my individualism. Perhaps she would be able to articulate the impacts of all this when she’s a full blown adult, I hope.
I also hope my affection to my wife, in the amounts shown to them today, would be a platform of memories of a simple loving family, caring for one another, filled with more kisses than arguments.
Jagdesh Singh, a Kuala Lumpur-based executive with a US multinational company, is a father of three girls who are as opinionated as their mother
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
The plight of the Rohingya (Asia Samachar, 29 April 2020)
When a Sikh boy gets bullied by white girls (Asia Samachar, 14 June 2020)
ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. Facebook | WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 | Email: email@example.com | Twitter | Instagram | Obituary announcements, click here |