The Kissing Hand

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By: Eugene K. Chow

Whenever Leilani Davis, 4, feels scared or lonely she holds her hand to her cheek and feels her mother’s love, comforted knowing she is always there for her.

It’s called The Kissing Hand and it comes from a children’s book of the same name.

A thoughtful and caring mother, Michelle Mosely created this special gesture to reassure her shy daughter Leilani.

Knowing that Leilani was a voracious reader — they read as many as 7 books together each night before bed — Michelle searched for a book with just the right lesson for her daughter. She found The Kissing Hand about a sheepish baby raccoon who was nervous about going to school and leaving his mother.

Like the baby raccoon in the book, thanks to a mother’s love, Leilani has gained confidence and come out of her shell.

And as her daughter has grown, so has Michelle. With help from the Robin Hood-funded Children’s Aid Society, a nonprofit that holistically addresses the needs of low-income children and their families by providing a range of services from healthcare to academics, sports, and the arts, they have both become confident go-getters eager to take on new challenges.

Michelle had a history of abuse as a child, so as a mother she struggles with anxiety and is deeply protective of her daughter. Without a support network and deeply skeptical of strangers, Michelle left her job to single-handedly raise Leilani.

“I would always cling to my daughter,” she said. “I would bring her to certain places and if I didn’t feel right about something I wouldn’t leave her there.”

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Everything began to change for Michelle after she found her village at Children’s Aid.

When Leilani was 2 years old, Michelle was looking for a daycare center and took the advice of a neighbor and visited a Children’s Aid Early Childhood Center in the Bronx near her home.

From the moment they set foot in the building, Michelle was deeply impressed by the level of genuine care and compassion everyone showed her and her daughter. Teachers, caregivers, and staff were so open, caring, and sincere that Michelle felt at ease right away.

“You feel as soon as you come in that it’s great to be here,” Michelle said, describing the facility. “It’s bright and airy. Everyone is always smiling and is so happy to see you.”

Under the watchful eye of Children’s Aid caregivers and teachers, Leilani has made incredible progress. She entered as a meek and quiet child, but has opened up in impressive ways.

“I see her growing as a person,” Michelle gushed. “She is more confident as a leader amongst her classmates. She’s very outspoken now. When she has an opinion now, she’ll tell you!”

Michelle now sees her daughter in a new light.

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“She’s still my baby, but I also have to give her room to spread her wings,” Michelle said. “There are things I can do now that I thought I couldn’t because I still thought of her as a baby.”

She remembers a recent outing she and her daughter made to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the encouragement of Leilani’s teacher. At first she was skeptical and a bit nervous, thinking Leilani would be uninterested and not ready for a long train ride into Manhattan. But after being reassured by Leilani’s teacher that she was ready, Michelle took the plunge.

“People thought we were tourists because of how excited we were,” she said with a laugh. “We had so much fun.”

In many ways, that outing was as eye-opening to Michelle as it was for her daughter.

“I’ve started to find joy in the things I was anxious about,” she said.

Seeing Leilani in such a supportive environment, Michelle now feels confident enough to start working again.

“I’m ready to go back to work. I know Leilani will be ok — she is on the right path. Now I want to re-focus on myself so I can be a good role model for Leilani.”


Children’s Aid Society, a Robin Hood-funded nonprofit, helps children living in poverty in New York City reach their full potential by providing comprehensive services to them and their families. Support programs are tailored to children at every stage of their life, from prenatal care to high school, college, and even job training programs. To ensure that kids have a stable environment at home, Children’s Aid works closely with families providing housing assistance, health care access, counseling, and more.

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