Recently, Maya has been asking me to tell her a story to help her fall asleep. We have a very specific nap/bedtime routine which includes potty, milk, a mini sleep sheep sound machine, reading three books, and for the past two years, I’ve played her Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong UNITED, a nine-minute-long praise song which was the anthem of my pregnancy and delivery with her, and has the miraculous quality to put her to sleep just about every time. Sometimes she asks me to recite to her The Night Before Christmas instead, but just a few days ago she asked me to tell her a story. I think this is due to her spending more time with my mom, who she affectionately refers to as Mémé. Mémé loves to tell stories, especially ones with Princess Maya as the main character, and Maya adores it.
Instead, what I do enjoy doing is memorizing things. I’ve memorized poems (like The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost), chapters of books in the Bible (like Romans 12), essays (like Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen) and children’s books (like The Night Before Christmas.)
So when Maya asked me to tell her a story, I told her Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Suess. I know Dr. Suess is beloved by some and despised by others, and personally, I love the meter and rhyme of his books (although I’m not the biggest fan of all his made-up words.) But this book is something special. It was his last book, published in 1990, and is a story of the journey of life and its challenges. Every May, it soars on the best-seller list, and is the go-to gift for graduations. In fact, I received a copy from my sister for my graduation, and I always used to read it to my ESL students on the last day of school each year, as a final farewell.
Now as I recite it to Maya, the words hold an even deeper meaning, which pull on my heartstrings as a mother. There are some very deep lines in the lyrical story that fill me with melancholy as I think about my little girl growing up one day and embarking upon her own life’s journey. Overall, the story is perfect for building the self-confidence and self-efficacy of our children.
"Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest."
"And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all."
"Will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)"
But it also does not shy away from the reality that life is tough, and scary, and lonely sometimes.
"I’m sorry to say so but sadly it's true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you."
"All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot."
"There are some things down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on."
Imagining Maya scared, lonely, or swimming up river so long that her arms get sore and her sneakers leak, makes me want to protect her and shield her from all of the bad things in this world. Which I know is my motherly instinct, and I also know is completely impossible to do.
So instead I hold her a little tighter, snuggle her a little longer, and promise her little sleeping face that I’m going to teach her to be strong, and brave, and successful, and that no matter what challenges she faces, I know she is going to overcome them, and I’ll be right there to help her and cheer her on.
My children, Oh, the places you’ll go!