I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.Can you read this book by Robert Munsch without sobbing? Not me. I've tried. I don't mean that I get a little misty or cry a few tears and then go on with my evening. I mean I sob. Huge, heaving sobs that would scare my best friend. I do not read this picture book to my boys. I own two copies and always know where to find one or the other. But I never go looking for them. It's enough to know that the words are there. It's almost too much.
I still tend to be incredibly hard on myself when it comes to my parenting. I'm terrified of giving my sons a childhood that will haunt them into adulthood and hinder their progress in the world. My own childhood ended abruptly and irrevocably at age 9. We've all heard "it's not that we'd ever make the same mistakes our parents did but we will certainly make our own". My children are resilient but they are not impermeable. I make mistakes. I say things I shouldn't. I ask for forgiveness and then I try harder. I pray (oh, how I pray) that we are as fortunate as these families:
I struggled, sure. We lived hand-to-mouth, but it was really heart-to-hand. Guy had love and laughter and a lot of good reading and poetry as a child. Having my son brought out the best in me and enlarged my life. Whatever he missed, he himself is a great father today. He was once asked what it was like growing up in Maya Angelou's shadow, and he said, 'I always thought I was in her light.'" ---Maya Angelou
When Chloe was well into adulthood, I asked nervously if she felt she'd been ignored as a child with all my frantic juggling of two careers and the responsibilities of home. She was startled.
"Wasn't I the center of your world?" she asked.
"Did you feel you were?" I said.
"Of course. I was the center of your world, wasn't I?"
"Yes, yes, you were," I said hastily. ---Mem Fox
Clearly, despite daily struggles and stress, these mothers did something right. Their children felt loved and cherished. Well into adulthood they are sustained by those truths. When I tell my sons that I love them, I mean it--each and every syllable, each and every time. I just hope they hear it. Really, really hear it.
Here's my current favorite mother/son duo: Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Matt Damon. As a woman with a busy career, there must have been times when she wondered if her children would turn out okay. This particular moment must have felt like her birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day all rolled into one. I imagine that this was not the first time Ms. Carlsson-Paige was proud of her son. I also imagine that no matter how successful and well-spoken he is, Matt will always be her little boy. I read somewhere that she paid his parking tickets long after he was a Hollywood star. I wonder how many times she's read Robert Munsch's classic picture book.