Where Margaret Wise Brown Got It Wrong
I love me some Good Night Moon. I know it’s staid and stiff and essentially odd. But, it’s comfortable to me. And, settling. I loved reading it to my littles at the end of the day.
Runaway Bunny, on the other hand, I have never really understood. I think it’s meant to be a testament to the lengths and breadths of a mothers love. Or something. Really not sure on this one. It has always just struck me as strange.
You know the premise don’t you? A baby bunny tells his mother that he’s going to run away, and no matter where he goes, or what he becomes, his mother says she’ll go there, too, and become whatever is necessary to bring him back. Like I said, a little odd. But, there are stranger conceits I’m willing to accept in literature, so it’s not the basic premise of the book that gets me.
It's just that it misses the boat for me. In all the big ways, but also in one particular specific. There is this one moment in the book where something really profound almost happens. Only, it doesn’t.
The tiny bunny says that he’ll become a sailboat and sail far away. His mother responds, “I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.”
And this is the part where I want to shout at the book. She was so close. A change to just one word and she would have said something so profound.
It is not, Mama Bunny, about where you want him to go. That is not our job—to create automatons that fulfill our expectations. That is not what I’m about, and it’s not what you’re about, and it is not the goal of mothering.
We don’t become the wind to blow them where we want them to go. All the power we pour into mothering them is to blow them where they want to go.
And we know that. I don’t think there’s one of us who would say that we’re out here doing this mothering so we stay in charge forever.
It isn't about the things that we say explicitly. It’s the way we pull back, subtly. Almost imperceptibly. The questioning. The hesitating. The quarrels about nothing at all. The permissions we withhold because of us, not them.
This giving my children independence, that is a brave and terrifying thing. It is knowing they will fail and giving them space for it. It is allowing them their struggles. Trusting what I’ve taught them. And trusting them to apply it. Allowing them to do the things that terrify me.
That is the kind of bravery that mothering requires of us.
Putting them on the train when they’re ready, even if I’m not ready.
Watching them walk onto a stage.
Walk into a new group of strangers.
Step out on their own.
On their own.