Chicago is going back to school – Is your kissing hand strong?

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter Viva who, like a raccoon, likes hand kisses and may be able to hear earthworms underground.

So, there’s this book called “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. It came out in 1993 but I’m only hearing about it now –probably because I was neither a child nor the keeper of one between 1993 and recently. Anyhow, this book is all the rage these days. It’s a book that deals with separation anxiety, and it’s a first day of school favorite. The gist of the book is this (spoilers ahead, because this isn’t Reading Rainbow, but don’t take my word for it … ): Chester the Raccoon is starting raccoon school. He’s freaked out about it because he wants to stay home in his tree instead of going off to take classes on how to eat garbage and spread roundworm. Chester’s mom kisses his hand and tells him whenever he needs the kiss he can just press the hand to his face and, like the leptospirosis they may be carrying, the kiss will race to his heart and remind him of his mother’s love. Chester then gives his mom a kissing hand kiss, so she can also feel his love while he’s learning to dip food in a stream and she’s getting a pedicure. It’s a good book.

Now, you’re likely already losing your mind about school starting. You should be — you probably screwed up paying for lunches, didn’t send enough glue sticks and forgot to put extra underwear in a Ziploc in case of accidents. Everybody makes these mistakes, and eventually your child will get unfortunate tattoos as a reaction to your inadequacy. That’s just part of growing up. You’re also upset because there are 47 kids in your child’s classroom this year and you’re bracing to have super lice in your house by Thanksgiving. Life is funny. On top of that, you’re packing off your kid for most of the day for the rest of their childhood because our industrial economy says that children must be trained to be semi-skilled workers with marginal lateral-thinking skills and, frankly, they have to go SOMEWHERE while you yourself work away the last best years of your own life. I FEEL YOU. But none of things are why you should really be upset …

You should be upset because your child is going to be staggeringly exhausted and whiny and crabby and mean for the next couple of weeks, especially if they’re entering a very new phase of school for the first time (preschool, all-day preschool, kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade, high school … those ones.). Of course they’re going to be tired, you say, they’ve been making sand castles and watching Netflix for three months! No, Dear Reader, if you haven’t experienced it yet, you have no idea what exhausted, whiny, crabby and mean look like until you’ve seen a kid go from half to full day, or full day with naps and dress up stations to all-day school work. They will be physically, emotionally, and cognitively exhausted like you are after work, but without the chemical addictions and sports radio that help you make it through each day. Say goodbye to the sweet child you love for a couple of weeks, and say hello to an obstinate, resentful, wet noodle. Eventually they’ll acclimate to the grueling worksheets, poorly lit rooms and social Darwinism and be back to normal. (Just with a few new swears they picked up from bad kids.) In the meantime, make like Chester the Raccoon. While your child is still bright-eyed and filled with love for you, have them kiss the palm of your hand. Later today, at pickup, when you are dragging them kicking and screaming across the parking lot with low blood sugar and a marker covered dress, press that hand to your face and feel the warmth and affection of the child that was.

Good luck this week to both you and your child. Hang tight to your kissing hand and remember, if you trap a raccoon and decide to release it on your own, move it several miles from your home and wear thick gloves. If a raccoon gets a hold of your hand, it isn’t going to kiss it.

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