I Love You Forever is a perennial favorite in this house. We have a copy my aunt gave to Michael when he was born and then we have another hardbound copy that has held up to the last 20 years of bedtimes. My children love the book. I've never really liked it. I'm not crazy about the art, but mostly, I'm sort of creeped out by the old mama who climbs into her grown son's bedroom and rocks him while he sleeps. Kinda weird, you know?
Lately, though, I think I understand her. As that baby grew into a boy and then into a man, he met the world. He made mistakes and he was hurt. He learned about what's out there, and he was hurt. He met many, many people and some of them hurt him. Nothing was ever so simple as it was when he was a baby in his mother's arms. I understand now--much better than when I was reading the book to three blond boys at bedtime--how that mother felt as her little boys grew. It's not so much that I want them to be little again. To want that would be to wish away the beautiful people they are right now, to wish away years of loving and living together. No, instead, I want to be that mama again. I want the power to gather them in my arms and soothe them as I rock. I want to shelter and protect and to be their whole world. I want to be able to ensure that their days are happy and healthy and holy. I want to love them with all my heart. And I want that to be enough.
But it's not. And I was right all along: it's utterly ridiculous to think about a mother lifting her grown child out of bed and rocking into the dark of night. We can't be their whole world forever.
We're left instead to tousle a head, to share a well-timed hug, and to listen long into the evening. We're left instead to storm heaven on their behalf and to thank the Lord for the gift they are. We're left to grow old as they grow up. We're left to love them forever and to trust that that is enough.