We are a Todd Parr–loving family. One of my sweetest memories is hearing my wife reading The Family Book to our son when he was a few months old. From The I Love You Book, I read to him, “I love you when you sleep, and I love you when you don’t sleep.” We love going through The Mommy Book. I confess, though, that I didn’t really think about how our son would characterize his mommies. But lo and behold, now it has happened. When we got to the hair page last night, I read to him, “Some mommies have short hair, and some mommies have big hair.” He looked up with glee and pointed to me. The mommy with big hair. Apparently.
Now I might point out to him that it’s curly and thick. Also, guess what, kid, you’re probably going to have big hair too. But I had a realization. When he points to me on “some mommies work at home,” and “some mommies have big hair,” it’s because he is starting to know me. This human who started as an ambitious ball of cells can now recognize that I have voluminous hair. He knows you can usually find Mama working in the kitchen.
Mamas in books
For months now, we have played the game of “who am I?” I am Mama. My wife is Mommy. We are beginning to get to hear our names, but he’s learning things beyond what to call us: he’s learning who we are. Or rather, who we are to him.
As I rocked him to sleep after we read our books last night, I thought of all the mommies in the books he loves. In Piggies in Pajamas, the mama pig talks on the phone and snacks in the kitchen while the piggies get into bedtime shenanigans. While she washes her face, they sneak into her bed so they can all snuggle together.
In Llama Llama Red Pajama, Mama goes downstairs to wash the dishes and talk on the phone while Llama Llama freaks out. In Penguin Says Please, Mama provides snacks and socks and water to a newly polite penguin. In Good Night Moon, the old woman whispering hush (who I have decided is probably just a tired mama in her 30s) knits and rocks in her chair.
finding each other in books
How does my son see me? Who am I to him? All of a sudden, I see that our son figuring out who he is, who he will be, is only half the equation. He is figuring out who we are, too.
It seems odd because I carried him in my belly. I felt his first movements. I gave birth to him, but this kid and I are still getting acquainted. All the time, in new ways, we are learning each other.
And books are helping us do it. My little llama doesn’t like to be alone in the dark. My little penguin is discovering the power of please. My little piggy delays sleep as long as he can, too. And his mama has thick hair (fine! it’s big! whatever!) and works at home. And what else? He can’t tell me yet, so it’s hard to know until we find the words for it. Perhaps in a book?