Have you ever read that children’s book “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch? We own it and have read it to little B.T. many times.
In case you need a plot refresher, this is the wistful tale of a mother who has given birth to a child who, through the years, proves to be full of zany antics like making ginormous messes in the bathroom or saying swears in front of his grandmother. Like any good mother, she loves him even though sometimes he’s a huge pain in the ass. How do we know she loves him? Easy! She sneaks into his room every night to make sure he’s asleep so she can pick him up, rock him, and sing him this song:
“I’ll love you forever/I’ll like you for always/As long as I’m living/My baby you’ll be.”
So then (spoiler alert!) the mother really gets old. Her son comes to visit and she tries to sing their special song, but her vocal chords are old and wrinkly and she can’t wheeze out more than half of it. So, in a dramatic role reversal, the son takes her into his strong man arms and rocks her, picking up the song where she left off.
Then he goes home and sings the song to his little baby girl – just like his mother did for him!
So sweet, right?
Loads of people love this book. I’ve seen it on at least four of those “best/must have/your children will grow up to be stupid and antisocial if you don’t read them these books” lists. But guess what? This book is creepy. IT IS REALLY DAMN CREEPY.
The idea of rocking a little baby to sleep is, of course, completely appropriate. But you know what’s totally not appropriate? Waiting till your grown son is asleep (midnight? 1am?) then driving across town. Sneaking into his bedroom window (hopefully he doesn’t have a lady visitor!), lifting his fully grown man body, and rocking him while you sing in his face. He’s, what, 30, maybe 32 years old? I’m sure you could probably pick him up no problem. He won’t even notice! Oh, and of course his room is on the second floor, so you had to make sure to bring your 40 foot ladder.
I’m pretty convinced that this is not so much the story of the eternal flame of a mother’s love, but of mental illness and a very serious attachment disorder. In fact, if this wasn’t fictional, we would be reading about this woman in the news, right there with those stories of grown men who pretend to be babies.
Mama’s midnight visits probably explain why she was never worried about a lady visitor sharing her son’s big-boy bed. I don’t know a lot of ladies who would want to get it on with some dude whose mom may or may not show up in the middle of the night so he can curl up in the fetal position and relive his babyhood. Or maybe I just live in the wrong part of Oregon.
In all fairness, I do get parts of this book. My children are still very young and I understand the idea that, figuratively speaking, they will always be my babies. One of them is literally still my baby. I just don’t plan on dragging that out until they’re in their 30s.
My kids are so far up in my business all the time that the thought of them growing up and leaving is almost ludicrous. But I know they will leave someday. And when they do, I’m hoping my reaction to their adulthood will be a little more like, “Hi honey please let me come over I will bring you a casserole” and a little less like, “Make sure your lady friend is gone by midnight so I can come over and rock you like a baby.”