How one book inspires a son’s reaction to his emotional mom.
I love reading books to my kids. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day before nap time and bedtime, and I never get sick of it. We all snuggle in our bed and I let them pick the books. Sometimes we will go an entire month with the same repertoire, and sometimes my kids like to mix it up. I know all of the tricks of paraphrasing, skipping sentences and inconspicuously even skipping whole pages to save time. Sometimes it just has to be done—we’ve all been there.
We have a zillion books that were hand-me-downs from my nieces and nephews, not to mention my own books that my mom saved. Madeline is a hit, so is Harry the Dirty Dog, and of course, Harold and the Purple Crayon. I draw the line at Babar though. That book is just too weird and random. I remember loving it as a kid, but then I read it one night to my son and I was like, “Wait, his mom gets shot and killed and he moves to the city and wears fancy people suits and has an old lady benefactor and then marries his cousin?”
In any case, while Cassidy was napping recently, Curran went to pick out a book to read. “Any book you want,’” I told him. He came back in holding a book. THE BOOK. “Um. Except THAT one!” My stomach lurched. This was the moment I have been dreading. “Why, Mommy? I want to read it!” “No, Curran. I just can’t. Any other book.”
He looked disappointed. “Please Mommy, can we read this one?” Looking into his curious and big green-blue eyes, I knew I had to suck it up. I have been trying to dodge this emotional bullet for as long as I possibly could, but it was time to face my fear. I opened it up, took a deep breath. “You can do this,” I thought.
So I started to read, Love You Forever.
You know this infamous book. The mother is rocking her baby in the rocking chair, and sings to him, “I’ll love you forever,” and he grows up and then she dies (or gets sick and is about to die,) and he holds her in the same rocking chair and sings it to her. UGH! Can anybody ever say that they have read this book without sobbing? If they have, then they do not possess a heart. I read it to my kindergarten class 15 years ago and couldn’t get through it. Back then, it made me think of my own mother, but now that I have my own kids? FORGET IT! There is just no way. Why do I even HAVE this stupid book?
As I started, I was fine. Curran was listening intently. The boy starts to grow up. I pictured Curran as a teenager and I got really scared of what that is going to be like. Then the boy grows up and moves out—but apparently nearby. I never realized how creepy it is that the mother gets up in the middle of the night, drives to his house and sneaks into his room at night—WITH A LADDER; into his window. She actually gets him out of bed and holds him and sings him the song. This is when we started laughing. Curran said, “Why didn’t he wake up? Why did she climb up a ladder to get into his room? That’s silly.” Good questions. Better question: ”Why did the mother do that?” Stalker?
At this point I was having fun with it. I was proud that I would be able to get through it.
It’s just the circle of life—like “The Lion King!” Then we got to the page where he goes over to his mother’s house and she is a little old lady and he rocks her in that same chair. And yup, that was it. I lost it and started sobbing. Maybe it was me picturing myself as a little old lady. She was pretty cute though; I hope I’m a cute little old lady. Anyway, then he goes into his own baby girl’s room and picks her up and sings the same song to her. I think I had forgotten that part—I cried even harder.
Now that I have my own kids and they aren’t little babies any more (already!!) reading this book hit me doubly as hard. I thought I was going to make it through without a breakdown, but no such luck. I know I am not alone. The love we have for our children is so intense; there is simply no way to describe it. Sometimes you just cry about it. Of course it’s a good thing, and it’s not a “sad” cry, per se. It’s just HEART WRENCHING as all!
Curran said, “Mommy stop crying! This isn’t a sad book!” I tried to explain, “But some day you are going to grow up, and I am going to love every moment of it, but I don’t know it still makes me sad. It’s hard to explain.”
“But mommy!” he said, “I will still love you! I will ALWAYS love you! Even when I’m 29!” Somehow, this made me feel better. But wait. What? 29? That’s all I get? “What about after that?” I asked.
“No. Just 29.”
Well at least I have a few more years.
By Kelly Mitchell