When my sons were younger, one of their favorite books was “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. It tells the story of a mother and her son. Each night she would rock him and sing a song about how she would love him forever and how he would always be her baby.
In the story, as her son grows, the mother continues to slip into his room and hold him and sing to him while he sleeps. The book takes a surprising turn when the son grows up and moves out. The mom gets into her car and drives across town. She sneaks into his bedroom and sings him the song.
That part of the story always disturbed me. For one thing, I couldn’t imagine my sons growing up and moving out. However, my oldest turns eighteen in a few weeks, and what I once couldn’t imagine may soon become quite real.
I don’t know much about how boys turn into men. I understand the physiology of the process. Two of my soft, sweet cherubs are now scratchy-faced fellows who tower over me. However, I’ve found it difficult to move past the hands-on stage of parenting. I find myself asking, “what did you eat for lunch… is your homework finished… where’s your coat?”
By contrast, my husband, Derek, has had some experience in becoming a man. He’s a retired military officer. He chides me for babying the boys and encourages me to let them do risky things – like fail.
“If you don’t allow them to make mistakes, how are they going to learn?” he asks.
But I’ve spent years trying to keep my sons from sticking fingers into light sockets, from eating dirt, and from running into the street without looking. Watching these boys become men has been tougher than I thought possible. For Derek, it’s more straightforward. We’ve taught them well, now let’s watch them fly – or fall. He says if we make the nest too comfortable, they’ll never want to fly. He says this like it’s a bad thing.
Last week, Derek and our second son exchanged heated words over a missed curfew. I bit my tongue and let them work it out, but late that night I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about how little time we have left with this young man in our home. I’ve watched how quickly his older brother’s high school years have flown.
So, I quietly opened the door to his room. Just like in the children’s story, I crept to the foot of his bed.
“What?” his deep voice mumbled.
“It’s just me,” I said.
He grunted and rolled over. I scooted to the edge of his bed and wrapped my arms around him. When did his chest get so broad? How did his arms get so muscular?
I whispered the words from “Love You Forever.”
And suddenly, I remembered a scene I’d witnessed recently in the lobby of a nursing home. A woman sat slumped in a wheelchair near the entrance. She wasn’t lovely to look at. Her white hair was thin and straggly and she didn’t have many teeth. Her shoulders were bowed and bent. She didn’t make eye contact with anyone.
The doors opened and a balding gentleman entered. He went right to the woman and knelt in front of her. “Hello, mother,” he said. She lifted her head and placed a trembling hand on the side of his face. She didn’t speak, but her eyes lit up and her smile transformed her.
Yes. I understand that little boys become men. I’m grateful my own have their dad to help them through the process. But we mothers know a secret.
At the end of that children’s story, the mother has become too frail to hold her son. So he goes to her. He picks her up and rocks her, and he sings her the same song she used to sing to him.
So, I’ll hold these boys while I can. I’ll let them go when I should. And someday maybe they’ll return and do the same for me.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stay-at-Home Moms.
For further information go to: www.chickensoupforthesoul.com