Thursday, August 26, 2010


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.


  1. My mother never forgave my first primary school for being backward, narrow-minded idiots, making it necessary for me to go transfer to a school out of town, making it impossible for me to be at home for lunch (this was normal here, in the early seventies).

    Not having had children, I have this same problem when hearing or reading about poor elderly people left behind helplessly or having been treated badly.

    I saw this one again unexpectedly, the other day, which left me blubbering:

  2. Hmmm... I don't know this one. That one where the mom sneaks into her sons bedroom over the years and rocks him and sings to him, and in the end he's rocking his mom and singing..... urggk... well there you go - I can't get thru that one.

  3. Laurent, that IS a sad little cartoon! John, the book you are talking about is called "I'll Love You Forever" and makes all parents cry and creeps out all kids....what, you don't want me sneaking in your house at night when you are an adult?

  4. I've never heard of that book either and it's a good thing since my boys would have had me put away due to all the crying........... Well there is one exception, Andrew's first year at college - he made so mad while moving him in I was happy to leave him there for 9 months.......Thanks for sharing!

  5. Although I didn't have the kissing hand book, I know all too well the feeling. And I can still get it whenever we part. Love, your weeping Mom.

  6. Damn this sobbing gene pool! I picture my daughter (adopted at birth) rolling her eyes, reaching her hand toward me while snapping her fingers, then extending her palm with an "Oh, Mom! Give me the book."
    Your Iowa cousin.