Something weird and cool is happening: Reading books to Ben at bedtime has become my new form of therapy. After a long day of grim headlines, escaping into books I've loved from my own childhood and cute new ones—and seeing Ben's reactions—is just what I need.
Sometimes, we giggle together as we read Dragon Love Tacos, The Days The Crayons Quit and any of the Charlie and Lola books. Sometimes, when we read old classics like A Birthday for Frances and Curious George, I get the warm fuzzies. Sometimes, I rejoice about great messages, like when we read I'm Not Just A Scribble and we get to the page where he declares, "The fact that I'm different doesn't make me so bad. My colors are special, and my lines are just fine. If you'd give me a chance, we could have a great time!"
Over the weekend, I had some rare time alone at home so of course, I organized. I waded through the bookshelf in Ben's room, plucking out books he'd outgrown and unearthing some we had yet to read. That included Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It's a classic yet somehow, my parents hadn't read it to me and I'd never read it to Max or Sabrina. Womp womp.
As you may know, it's a heart-tugging story about a mom who loves to hold her sleeping son in her arms at bedtime—when he's 2, when he's 9, when he's a teen. I had a little lump in my throat the first time I read the song she sings: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long I'm living, my baby you'll be." I mean, it doesn't take much to get me going these days, but I'm also acutely aware that my children are growing old, fast. Max is going to be 18 in a few weeks. Sabrina is closing in on 16. Ben just turned 5. My baaaaaaabies....
At one point in the story, the guy moves into his own house.
"Why is he moving?" Ben asked.
"When kids grow up and become grown-ups, they often move into their own home," I explained. I was careful not to over-generalize, as it's unclear what the future holds for Max.
Ben's face crumbled and a tear leaked out of one eye.
"What's wrong?!" I asked.
"I want you to be with me," he sniveled.
"Well, the good thing about moms and dads is that their hearts are with you all the time, even if you are not both in the same place," I said. "I really will love you forever!"
Ben shook his head, sadly.
"OK, I will be with you if you want me to," I said.
That placated him. Then we got to the part of the book where the mother crawls in through her adult son's bedroom window and holds him while he's sleeping and I was all: That is weird.
The next day, I was working in our attic when Ben trotted upstairs. We talked for a bit.
"I want to read that book again, the one about loving you always," he said.
I said yes. "It made you a little upset," I noted.
"Yes, because I was worried that you wouldn't be with me," he said. I was impressed he could articulate his concern. I hugged him tight. That night, we read it again, only it was a somewhat different experience. Ben is in that little boy poop-obsession phase and he thought it was a laugh riot to insert the word into everything.
Me: "I'll love you for...
Me: "...forever, I'll like you for...
Me: "...always, as long as I live my baby you'll be."
Ben: "I'LL BE YOUR POOOOOOP!"