Monday, April 7, 2008

Jackie Paper's bedtime story

Little boys often are older than we think.

Tonight, before bed, Rye wanted to read Puff the Magic Dragon. It is only the second or third time we've gotten it out since my dad gave it to him for Christmas.

The book is beautifully illustrated, and Rye loves the page where the kings and princes bow in front of Puff and Jackie Paper and then the next page where the pirates lower their sails.

He giggled as Jackie swung from Puff's gigantic tail. And he nodded in understanding as I told him about the "toys" Jackie brought for Puff.

But then we all know what happens. The perfectly happy tale of boy and dragon turns tragic.

As the song goes: "But then one day it happened. Jackie Paper came no more..."

That's as far as we got. Rye said, "Why did he come no more?" And I saw tears fill his toddler eyes, his lip tremble and I thought, "Oh, no, why did we read this book?" and out it came. Sobs as hard as they've been in a while. Genuine sadness, heartfelt empathy from a boy still on the eve of his third birthday.

I couldn't keep it together at my dad's at Christmas when we read the book either. Why does Jackie Paper have to leave?

This book's illustrator was nice. The last two pages show a little girl coming to find Puff, play with him.

Still, Rye cried. I know, I told him. This is a sad book. It's OK. It's OK.

Even after we'd read Barney -- the happiest book I could think of -- Rye lay in bed, sniffling, his breath catching as it does after a hard cry. "I'm still sad," he said.

I told him it would be OK, that Puff is just pretend, just a story, that neither I nor Dane would ever leave him like that.

And when he went to bed, he seemed content. We'd changed subjects to Great Wolf Lodge, The Wiggles and a story he made up -- "It's a long story, Mom. I need to tell you it all right now."

Still, I can't help feeling I should have known better, that maybe I could have better protected him.

But little boys do grow up. They do move on. What happens to Puff just happens to all of us.

I wish it didn't have to.


Grant said...

Don't wish for that... okay that's a little too direct...

DON'T WISH FOR THAT... whoops, I feel like i just morphed into the characther 'House' and I'm being an ass... I slipped and got more direct...

Embrace growth, in all forms, even and quite possibly especially in the category of independence, don't resist it. Challenge him. You're the teacher, the mentor, the sense (sp?). He's the student, and it sounds like he's a hell of a student. Embrace every moment where he shows expanded capacity, capability, new talents...

Now do I actually think you have problems with this? NO... BUT, I do think some parents forget to celebrate and foster their children's independence and they want Jackie Paper to keep going to the only place he initially found comfort, and for them a strongly worded reminder is appropriate. ;-)

great writing, as always, veronica. keep it up.

Veronica said...

Good point, Grant.

I do know that. I realize that our main job is to teach our children to leave us and flourish on their own. Of course, I'm doing that as best I can.

Selfishly, though, I wish Rye never had to experience any of the bad stuff this world has to offer, the painful parts of growing up. You know?

As a mother, I want my baby to learn and grow and become a man, yes. But I also will always have that instinct to protect him -- from bad guys, bad news, sad children's stories, whatever.

I think what I really meant at the end of this post is, "I wish it didn't have to hurt to grow up."

Thanks as always for reading.

Jenny said...

I never realized how many sad stories we sing and read to children until I had my own.

While looking up lyrics to popular children's songs last week, I found that many were very disturbing!

What the heck?

I haven't read about Puff in a long time, but it does look like a wonderful book with a good message.

I'm not ready for my little boy to grow up yet. Will I ever be? Probably not.

Thanks for the beautiful post and the reminder that they are only young and innocent once!

Chris said...

I think the same thoughts and Jack's only 7 months old. It makes me sad when he hurts himself or when I think about how he there will be a time when he doesn't need me as much anymore. But, I also think about how I can teach him to be a good person.

Jonathan said...

This is a very eye opening post Veronica. Please keep up the good blogging!

Veronica said...

Yes, I love that this post has generated such good discussion. Thanks everyone.

Jonathan, I got your e-mails yesterday -- thanks. How did the interviews go?