Great Reads: The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn

The sound of a school bell clanging in the morning means many things to different people.  For a teacher, it is the start of the teaching day.  For a child, it is the start of a learning day.  For a parent it is the start of a chaotic workday – whether that work be inside or outside of the home.

This September the shrill of the school bell symbolized a new beginning for my son.  Together we stood, hand in hand, outside the kindergarten entrance.  His brand new bright red backpack hung from his shoulders.  His blue eyes were wide as he anxiously took in the schoolyard scene: older boys tossing balls against the wall, girls with pigtails and tights twirling colourful skipping ropes.  His little hand gripped mine, ever so tightly.  To be truthful, maybe it was me who was doing the gripping.

I knew that in an instant, when he walked single-file through those heavy double doors, a chapter in our lives had come to an end.  No longer was I the new mother, unsure and without confidence.  No longer was he the little boy who needed to be rocked to sleep in my arms.

My son released his grip on my hand and I leaned down to kiss him goodbye.  I squeezed him and choked back my tears.  I whispered in his ear how much I loved him.  We clung to each other for a moment, each of us gathering the strength to pull away.  Just as he was about to join his new classmates, he held out his small hand, palm facing up.  I knew what he wanted.

Weeks before the start of kindergarten we read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  The story is about a little raccoon was nervous to start the first day of school.  His mother kisses the palm of his hand so whenever he is feeling lonely or scared, he can place the palm on his cheek and feel the love of his mother.

I took my son’s hand and kissed it and then extended my palm towards him.  He walked towards the line-up with his hand firmly pressed against his cheek and held it there until he disappeared into the hallways of the school.

I turned and walked away, my hand against my cheek.

This has become our morning ritual and I am very thankful to have come across this book that helped to make the transition to kindergarten a bit easier for both of us.  Is there a book or story that you used with your children to get through a tough time or to teach an insightful lesson?



19 thoughts on “Great Reads: The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn

  1. What a great story and book recommendation BA! I felt so teary imagining you and Jack saying good-bye. Hazel started “kindy” this week and after some teary and anxiety-ridden good-byes, I am definitely going to look for this book.

    • It was recommended to me by a friend (and former mentor from Teacher’s College) this summer when I told her how anxious Jack was about starting school (and me too). The kiss on the hand has definitely made the good-byes much easier but I wonder if his teacher thinks there is something wrong with his cheek because every morning he walks into class holding it 🙂

  2. Boy, am I glad I din’t put on my mascara yet.
    That is such a touching moment you had with Jack.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • I didn’t share that I sobbed the entire way home and then again with my sister-in-law later that morning . . . who then teared up remembering when she said did the kindergarten drop off for her kids. Note to all new moms: don’t wear mascara when dropping kids at kindergarten for the first time!

  3. Oh my gosh Beth Anne! I am crying at work right now reading this! I totally share all of the emotions you felt in taking your first-born child to JK. Owen started this September as well….and I now find myself staring at this little boy and trying to remember him as a baby, just days old. I reflect on the years we have spent together, the learning, kisses, hugs, playdates, all the activities we did together while I was on maternity leave and it amazes me that here we are 4 1/2 years later! When I look at him I am so proud to be his mom…..and I am proud too of myself for all that I have provided to him over the years that has made him the person he is today. This is just another one of the many (sometimes difficult hurdles) that we face as mothers!!! …..I enjoy reading your blogs….they are great and SO relatable!

    • Oh, I know! I think about how fast the four years have gone by and it makes me a bit sad. I definitely treasure the infant days with Will because I know now how fleeting they are. I can’t believe that Owen is 4.5. Where does the time go?

  4. I think I will buy that book, this story almost made me cry thinking of having to take my son next year, I know it won’t be easy for me!

  5. what a lovely story – reading the comments I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who teared up (thought it was just my pregnancy hormones making me emotional).

    • Congrats on the pregnancy! Pregnancy hormones can definitely reek havoc with the emotions. When I did this kindergarten drop off, I was 2 weeks postpartum. Needless to say the crazy hormones didn’t help to stop the tears!

  6. Your story brought back such fond memories for me. We have that book too, and when my daughter started Kindergarten two years ago, it was a difficult transition for her. We started out with me giving her a kiss to “hold,” and then we started actually drawing a little tiny heart right in the middle of her palm for her to look at during the day if she felt sad.

    It broke my heart every day to put her on the bus and know she was feeling sad about going. I think the ritual was good for both of us. That book will always hold special memories for me, and hopefully for my daughter as well.

  7. For me, this book will be among the ones that I keep long after the boys outgrow picture books and being read to. In addition to this one, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I still can’t get through that one without choking up.

    • Our bookshelves bear quite a resemblance; we have that one too! It was given to me by my middle school English teacher when my first baby was born. I know what you mean about the choking up; it gets me every. single. time! It should come with a free box of Kleenex when you buy it!

  8. Okay, I just bought both books, thanks for your recommendation and I liked your story….what a great mommy you are!

  9. Beth-Anne, great post and such a cute story! I can only imagine the tears after you dropped him off!! so nice that you had a special moment to give Jack confidence walking into the big school on the first day. I will definitely try out this book to get ready for next year!

    Since James was born, I have been reading him the story “My Personal Penguin”. It’s a Sandra Boynton book and has a really nice message about always wanting to be there for them – not related to a specific milestone in life or even a specific relationship – I even gave a copy to my husband on Valentine’s Day:) – but definitely a loving and reassuring message. It has also been put to music – Davy Jones from the Monkees – we’ve downloaded it and the kids request it all the time in the car. Now Aidan is loving the book also and won’t go to bed without reading it. It is also one that I will treasure a long time.

  10. Ahh, Beth-Anne, this little story of yours had me all choked up thinking of when Addy will be going to school in a few years. Thank you for sharing your sweet story!

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