If only I could keep you little… (a letter to my daughter)
My dear girl, you’ve always loved bedtime stories. Happy ones, silly ones, rhyming ones, teaching ones, nonsense ones… There’s just something about being able to wind down and snuggle up together with a cozy blanket and good book that makes this a time to love and look forward to.
The bedtime story we chose recently was a sad one. This beautiful book full of colorful illustrations, charming expressions, and page after page of happy images and smiling children provoked quite an unexpected conversation with you, my dear daughter… So what was it that made it sad?
It was sad because this book was written in such a way that it captures the emotional paradox of motherhood’s excitement for all the amazing things a child will do and become… as well as the mother’s reluctance for having to let her children go in order for all those things to occur.
“If I could keep you little”, by Marianne Richmond.
Now I don’t know this author personally, but I wonder… did she realize what an impact her simple rhymes and charming pictures might have on those reading and listening to her work? Did she realize how deeply her stories might resonate with our souls? I wonder if she ever imagined that her sweet story might bring a 5-year-old child to tears… because that’s exactly what happened.
You see my dear, it wasn’t me with the tear-stained cheeks. This time, it was you. You’ve always demonstrated such a love for literacy and mature ability to really listen and understand the words you hear and the illustrations you see. This time, those words and illustrations broke you. Specifically, the final page of the book that read,
“If I could keep you little, I’d keep you close to me… but then I’d miss you growing into who you’re meant to be!”.
It was that final line that all the sudden led your lips to quiver, your nose to crinkle, your lips to tighten, and your eyes to fill with tears. Genuine, raw, honest tears. Tears for being afraid of growing up. Tears for being afraid of losing the close comfort and loving nurture of your parents. Tears for overwhelming sadness with the realization that someday, you might grow into a loving mother, a devoted wife, and a responsible adult no longer under the roof you currently call home. All of those things I hope and dream for you one day yet also struggle to accept myself as I watch you grow.
It was in that moment, my dear girl, that you looked up at me with your beautiful big brown eyes and sobbed, “Mommy! I NEVER want to grow up! I never want to be far away! I never want you to leave!” … “I want you to be with me forever!”.
Cue more tears. Except this time, they were mine.
Within a few moments, this simple children’s story broke you. And the brokenness that consumed your naïve little heart broke me. You wiped your tear stained cheeks and begged me for the reassurance that I would, in fact, be with you forever and never let you go… This broke me because as much as I don’t want to accept that truth, the author of this sweet story is so right. If I don’t slowly let you go, we’ll both miss the opportunity of watching and seeing the amazing girl you’re meant to become.
This time, I couldn’t give you the reassurance you wanted… but what I could do, what I DID do, was give you the reassurance that we have many years before we have to really ‘let go’. I explained to you that I’m clinging to these everyday moments just as much as (if not more than) you are. I explained to you the reality of passing time and moving days, as evidenced by your clothes that are shorter, your shoes that are tighter, your books that are easier, and your schoolwork that is harder. I also gave you the solid reassurance that I will always love you fiercely, no matter how old you become or how far away you might live.
My dear girl, tonight I’m thankful for this gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, heart-bursting story by Marianne Richmond. I’m thankful because it led to a sweet moment and an opportunity to remind you that while I have a million reasons for wanting to keep you little… I also have more than a billion exciting reasons for wanting to watch you grow.
If you aren’t familiar with this story, I highly recommend adding it to your wish list. It’s a good one guys! And if you do decide to purchase it, go ahead and pick up a box of Kleenexes too… because I’ll bet that you’ll need them!