Wednesday, March 14, 2018

An Open Letter to the Mom in Love You Forever

Dear Mom in Love You Forever,

Recently I picked up a copy of your story at the library, feeling like I should introduce my 1-year-old to the classics. I keep hearing the name of your book and I think it even won some awards, and I generally respect decisions by the people who give out those sorts of things.

Obviously, you're a devoted and loving mother. I can see that right off the bat. There you are, rocking your newborn baby and singing:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always, 
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.

After reading Love You Forever, I've got some major questions and a plea for you to seek professional help.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Here's how it all began.

Girl, you are preaching to the choir. That so-soft-you-can-barely-feel-it newborn skin is worth peeing a little when you sneeze for the rest of your life.

I turn the page, and he's a toddler already (and in retrospect it does seem like it happens that fast.) And of course, you're there, too, sneaking up to his bed to cradle him and sing "I'll love you forever."

I can't blame you for crouching at his bedside, eyes glinting like a starving lioness about to pounce on a wildebeest. I want to gobble up those flushed little cherub cheeks myself. And he's not even mine  you must have the willpower of a Buddhist monk to refrain from eating him whole.

After reading Love You Forever, I've got some major questions and a plea for you to seek professional help.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Note: you can also walk into children's rooms.

Then your little boy grew. He grew and he grew and he grew. I gave you the benefit of the doubt for as long as I could, but when he went through puberty and you were still rocking him secretly in his sleep, I knew I was looking at a mother in pain.

Take it from me: I know how your heart aches when you catch a glimpse of your gigantic, hygiene-challenged teenager and for a moment you see a little boy waddling around in footie pajamas offering you bites of soggy graham cracker. Part of you is proud, but the other part wants to lock your arms around his knees and wail "DON'T LEAVE ME!" Motherhood is hard like that.

Sometimes, you're gonna need to pound down a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream and cry over his kindergarten artwork for a while before you realize it's pretty great after all watching your tiny people become big people who do amazing things. Plus, no more diapers.

I really wanted to see you have your Cherry Garcia moment, but page after page, you wrap yourself in denial and continue rocking your increasingly enormous son back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

I sense disaster, and I'm also beginning to sense that this is a getting a little too dysfunctional for a children's book.

After reading Love You Forever, I've got some major questions and a plea for you to seek professional help.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Your son, getting the heck outta Dodge.

Once he reaches adulthood, your son moves out and buys a house across town, and I was hopeful that a fresh start would be good for both of you.

Maybe he'd let out the slack on that umbilical cord and set some boundaries, or at least start taking a few days to return your texts to remind you that he's a grown man with a life of his own. A man who can shave and vote for president and sign his own legal documents without you.

You'd have no choice then but to start confronting your own feelings, possibly with the help of a trained psychotherapist, and things would start looking up from there.

But then you drive over there in the middle of the night WITH A LADDER ON TOP OF YOUR CAR and I don't even know what to believe anymore.

After reading Love You Forever, I've got some major questions and a plea for you to seek professional help.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Take a good, hard look at yourself in the rearview mirror right now. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?

I have so many questions, including how you got that ladder up there in the first place. You are a senior citizen. Am I really supposed to believe you tossed a full-size ladder up over your head and tied it on the roof by yourself? Who is helping you do this? And why? You have a problem and your enablers are doing you no favors. You all need professional help.

More importantly, why can't you just invite your son to Sunday brunch and make passive-aggressive comments about how he never calls like a normal mom?

Do your visits have to be a midnight operation? It says right there on the page that you specifically drive over there "on dark nights." Why do you need the cover of darkness? What is even going on here?!?

It's hard to let go, but you've got to let your son live his life. He will never find a significant other who is cool with this arrangement. Never.

After reading Love You Forever, I've got some major questions and a plea for you to seek professional help.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Me? I've just been crawling in my adult child's window for the occasional snuggle. What's new with you?

The next time you find yourself singing yet another verse of "I love you forever" to your comatose 32-year-old, I want you to remember a few things.

First of all, this co-dependent relationship can only end in one way: with a hernia. Your son appears to weigh 200 pounds and there's no way you can continue to dead-lift him into your lap indefinitely. (Although you did manage the ladder, so you must be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger under that ankle-length frock.)

Second, lasting fulfillment has to come from within. Sure, breaking and entering might make you feel better tonight, but what about tomorrow and all the days after that?

You see, when it comes down to it I'm not so worried about your flagrant disregard for your son's doorbell or his personal life as I am about your flagrant disregard for yourself. He can always get a restraining order, but you'll eventually have to figure out how to live with and love YOU.

Give yourself permission to explore your own interests. Ones that don't include creeping around your son's bedroom floor in the dead of night. You could write a novel. You could take a pottery class. You could start making modern art out of your own body hair if that's what you want to do.

The point is, it's never too late to rediscover your own dreams, mom. You can still visit your son and tell him you love him.

During the daytime.

Paired with an appropriately affectionate hug.

While he's conscious.

With Concern,
Jenny from Unremarkable Files

P.S: Your son clearly suffers from a severe sleep disorder and needs to be evaluated by his doctor immediately. What if the house caught fire? What if he rolled over onto his creepily tiny cat?

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  1. I need you to write an open letter to the boy in The Giving Tree, please and thank you. R loves to read I'll Love You Forever and also The Giving Tree, both of which we got as presents when I was pregnant and I want to ask WHYYYYYY. So depressing and also just kind of weird.

    1. I think the boy in The Giving Tree needs an open smack to the back of his head.

      Also, see this video for more on how I feel about that:

  2. Ha ha. I've always read this to my kids and looked at it thru their eyes, that mom will love you like a baby no matter how big you are. But now I see how dysfunctional that statement is.


    I didn't do a fact check on that, but it appears the story may have originated as a way to grieve the births of two stillborn babies, and perhaps a sort of commitment that they would never be forgotten.

    1. I did just fact-check on the author's website, and the author verifies this story. How sad!

    2. I did see that, too. It's legit. I think it actually wouldn't have been a terrible story if maybe the illustrations were less realistic-looking, so it looked truer to the author's intent (daydream of seeing those babies grow up vs. crazy stalker lady literally driving across town with a ladder on the roof.)

  4. Also, I just want to be clear that I am not jabbing at you. Taken literally, it does become ridiculous, as you point out with humor. I just remembered reading about the origin, not knowing if it was true, but glad if it was true that perhaps it has helped others mourn their losses.

  5. Oh man YES! We had this book when I was little, and I remember my mom affectionately reading it to us, but now that I think back on that book it is creepy! What's sad is that I sometimes see women holding onto this mentality of "you're always my baby, I always get to treat you like my baby" when their kids have long passed the baby stage. Yes, I know that "it goes by so quickly," but it's normal and healthy (and important!) for natural boundaries to spring up and for women to learn that besides being moms, they are human beings with unique interests beyond breastfeeding and newborn snuggles.

  6. This book is pretty creepy but it has a bittersweet association for me that was surely not intended by the author. Back in 1992 a teen-age cousin of mine was in town undergoing a bone-marrow transplant. Because he and his family were from a State on the other side of the country, my immediate family stepped in to offer support. We spent hours in the hospital with his parents (and, of course, with him). I had just had my first baby and identified particularly closely with my Aunt and her terror over the real possibility that she was about to lose her son. The transplant was "successful" and after several months the family was able to go home. Before leaving my Aunt gave me a copy of this book. You can imagine how I felt reading it given the circumstances. I put the word "successful" in quotes because my cousin died from complications of his transplant 3 years later. That book became even more precious to me. This post sent me back 26 years to that time. The book is now carefully wrapped and put away with my son's first outfit, diaper, and other beloved items. So, yes, the book is very weird, but it always causes me to imagine how much my aunt would give to be able to wrap her arms around her son again. - Kathy Young

    1. Reading it I had never made a connection with child loss, but taken in that light the book does lose some of the creepy factor. Glad that it has sentimental value for you and thank you for reading this post in the spirit in which it was intended.

  7. I have always found this book creepy! I will now randomly start singing it (of COURSE we made a song) to my adult children telling them I am coming one night.

  8. Your Open Letter is seriously one of the best laughs I've had in a while!

  9. My grandma gave me this book when I had my first child, so I treasure it. But I always skip past the pages with the crazy stalker mommy.

    1. The book had me until the page with the ladder on the car, is all I can say. Then things went south for me.

  10. From a Bowen Family Systems point of view, this book is eye opening,
    There are examples of Enmeshment, fear of abandonment, boundary violations. The son moved away in effort to self individuate, yet finds himself caught in Bowen’s Multigenerational Transmission Process, as he perpetuates the behaviors with his own daughter and Freud’s Repetition Compulsion as he repeats traumas of his childhood in effort to close his ‘creepy’ feeling file.
    Where is the father? Is this a reason why the mother is enmeshed with her son and maybe why he tried to go ‘no contact’ with his boundary violating mother. In the end he remains enmeshed with her and starts on his own ‘blank canvas’- his own child.
    This story is similar to the enmeshment between my own mother and my brother. ( by the way, my brother LOVES this book, I honestly believe he identifies with the content)
    My mother is the reason I am going into the Psychology field.