Each year, the night before school begins, I read the book The Kissing Hand to each of my children. In case you are not familiar with this sadistic book, it is a children's story about a raccoon who is scared to go to school until his mother gives him a kiss on his palm and explains that this symbolizes that her love will be with him no matter where he goes. There is not a mother in the world who can read this book aloud to her child without crying and I once saw a kindergarten teacher read it aloud to an entire room of parents and kindergartners on the first day of school with nearly disastrous results. No one likes to see grown men in suits sobbing.
Still, it is a tradition, and so I soldier on. This year, as I dusted the book off, I said to Lilly, "This year I will not cry," and I meant it. "Sure," she said, "Good luck with that."
I made it past the part where the raccoon says how much he just wants to stay home with his mommy because that no longer applies--she loves school and is happy to go. But when I got to the part where the mommy realizes she will miss her little raccoon I could not go on. I just pointed to the page and Lilly finished reading it for me.
With Atticus I made it all the way through. Teenage boys don't have much patience for their crying moms. But for some reason when I tried to read it to Grace I couldn't even start. I just had an image of her pleading with me not to send her to preschool. She just wanted to stay home. And I have to say, I should have let her stay home. Hindsight is 20/20 especially when it comes to parenting. Preschool is over-rated. Mandatory schooling starts soon enough. I started crying as soon as Chester said he wanted to stay home and Grace had to read the whole damn book to me, shaking her head in bewilderment as tears poured down my face.
As you go through your back-to-school rituals this fall with your own raccoons, from preschool to college, remember you are not alone. Despite the funny commercials showing the moms celebrating as the bus pulls away, we are all crying inside.