Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Whether you're a stay-at-home parent or a parent who works outside of the home or somewhere in between, the time comes when you must separate from your child and he or she or they from you. Each child and each parent handles separation in their own way. My parental troubleshooting methods often have me turning to two sources for assistance - books and Tylenol - and when it came to separation, I needed both! Our kids handled separation differently from one another but, in their earliest years, none of them found it particularly easy. Nor did I! A tried and true favorite tool in our household when the girls were younger was Audrey Penn's The Kissing Hand. This is a precious story about a mother raccoon seeing her son off to Kindergarten and giving him a way to feel close to her when they're apart. Inspired by the tale, when one of our daughter's was having a particularly difficult time separating to start Kindergarten, I kissed her hands in the morning so she could place my kisses on her cheeks throughout the day when she needed them most. We probably should have let the teacher in on the plan because I received a somewhat alarmed call from her  informing me that our daughter had been rubbing her hands all over her face all morning and they were concerned she might have a contagious rash or an allergic reaction. Our daughters have all let me know this book was one of their favorites and someone gets weepy every time it's mentioned.

I recently came upon a new picture book that evoked The Kissing Hand and all that it has meant to my family. Bonnie Verburg's The Kiss Box, illustrated by Henry Cole, is another story about separation and the love and compassion shared by parent and child. It is the resourceful child, in this case, who comes up with a way the mother and child can hold onto one another's love even when they are apart. Little Bear creates a "Kiss Box" in which he places a hundred kisses for his mother. At his request, she makes one for him too. My kids saw this book on the coffee table recently, read through it and started crying. The tears were brought on by the emotion and the memories - not because the story is sad! On a personal note, I fell in love with this particular book both for the reasons I've already mentioned and because one of our daughters actually did this on her own just a few years ago. My husband Jeff, an attorney, had a big case out of town and had to relocate for a few months. It was an emotional time for all of us and one of our daughters realized that, because the rest of us would be together, the separation was going to be hardest of all on Jeff. She found a small box in which she placed a few private thoughts, sayings and things and gave it to him as a gift, instructing him to look inside whenever he was feeling particularly lonely - to remind him that his family back home loved him and was counting down the days until his return. There's no way around it - kids are special and have enough love to get you through the toughest times. For our part, when we were missing Jeff most, we would cuddle up with out precious dog Lev who we adopted the day he left, who made sure we had many funny stories to share with Jeff every time we spoke and who continues to lick our faces and fill our lives with unconditional love.