Giving away that very last children’s book was excruciating for me. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are now 15, 13, and 8, so they know it’s time. The problem is, my mama heart just isn’t there yet. I have a stash of several of these book gems which I can’t seem to part with. The most cherished of them is “Time For Bed” by Mem Fox. Oh, the flood of emotions I get when I see this book. I bought this book when I was pregnant with our first of three sons. I read it each and every night during their first six months of life. We kept a bassinet by our bed with each baby for the first six months and I would sleepily sit next to the bassinet, rocking it with my foot, while I read this little book to them. Each of our sons heard the words of this book so many times that I came to know the words by heart and didn’t even need to read the words anymore. I was convinced that this sweet, little book literally put each boy to sleep in some magical way.
Some of you may be wondering why I am so sappy. My oldest two have become teens practically overnight, and my youngest has officially grown out of these little kid books. But when the heck did this happen?! I also just turned 45 and the wheels really feel like they are falling off the bus lately. I am not having any more babies. Sigh. I am not even close to cool anymore. Sigh. I am not even the tiniest bit tempted or excited to leave my house after dark falls either. Sigh.
When did all of THIS happen? The boys felt little to us forever and their aging seemed to happen at a glacial pace. Then all of a sudden, teens and 45 are happening AT THE SAME TIME! How much is a mama expected to take? And then you say the books have to go now, too? Are you kidding me? Children’s books are one of the last bastions of little boy-hood in this house. Like soft blankies and stuffed animals that now get ignored and long ago pacifiers. I secretly still have my youngest son’s last paci at the bottom of one of my frequently-used purses. I just can’t make myself throw it away. These books represent all that is sweet and innocent in my three boys. Not the current, sassy three with which we now live. Oy!
These books are filled with playful dragons named Puff and a dreamy, flying boy named Peter Pan. They are silly and whimsical and delight me as much as they used to delight them. And you know what else? They are SHORT. Bedtimes used to be filled with kids high-fiving me and glowing at the stack of books I was about to read to them. I was a bedtime book goddess. These days, it is a long chapter in some required reading book for school that they barely seem interested in. No pictures, no fun story, no rhymes. No little boy-ness all a-giggle next to me. Not that I still don’t love to read to them. I will take any desire they still hold to have me as part of their bedtimes. I just miss the little faces all aglow, snuggling in next to me. That is what I am saying goodbye to when I have to give up these books. It is tough and I am not ready.
I have started bagging up these books and clearing spaces on their bookcases. I am deciding which lucky coworker or neighbor will be the recipient of my book treasure trove. I mean, I was a college literature student at one point in my life. Yes, it was “BK,” or “before kids,” as my husband and I call that redolent time we shared when life was more free. I chose each one of these books intentionally and carefully. They were not just books to me; they were life lessons, not to be taken lightly. Who knows if the person I give these books will cherish them? What if they get slobbered on or chewed on by a family pet? What if they don’t get read? (Perish the mere thought!) Or what if they are loved and cherished…just not in my home? It all seems too much, too soon. Just the other night, my eight-year-old asked me to sing him “Puff The Magic Dragon”. Of course, I immediately went to my bookcase for the book to make sure the lyrics were correct. It was stashed away, but waiting there on that bookshelf to be read again. My eight-year-old sat on my lap as I sang the book to him and before I knew it, tears were rolling softly down my face. My husband sat there in the same room just shaking his head slowly at me and smiling.
You can give me a hard time for being a big softy, or you may write it off as hormones. But just like Puff retreated back into his cave after “little Jacky Paper” grew too old to play with him, I’ll be here looking at these precious books and trying not to cry for the next 15 years while I wait for grandchildren.