Essay

Dispatch #048

The Language of Books

By: Adriana Macias

Carmen woke up in a bad mood today and spent the rest of the day finding some fault in everything and everyone. The Shelter In Place policy in our county has caused drastic changes in my four-year-old’s life. I spent half the day dealing with tantrums. I had to put her in multiple time outs in order to give her time to adjust her bad behavior. Also, I needed to give myself space before I said or did something I might regret.

No hugging her grandparents. No holding hands with her best friend. These changes have not been easy. Carmen often tells me “I feel lost” and “I have too many thoughts and feelings momma. I don’t know what to say or do.” These feelings and thoughts are overwhelming enough for an adult. How can I expect an observant four-year-old to deal with these emotions? It drives me crazy I cannot not give her what she needs during those hard moments to prevent frustrations escalate into tantrums. But, now, it is bedtime. 

“I love you for always and I’ll like you always, momma,” says Carmen as she snuggles hard against my chest. I feel the warmth of her breath as she rubs her face into my body. It feels as if she is almost pleading for my body to envelope her. Tears well up in my eyes as I recognize her words are from Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever.  

I have always encouraged Carmen to try and describe her emotions or thoughts to me as best as she can. This way I can understand what she is feeling and try to help work through them.

Over time, I gleaned why this book always brought out tears or hard snuggles after the book was finished. She fears being alone. Especially since Shelter In policies took effect, Carmen has become really attached to me. Being with momma brings her the reassurance she craves. Momma is her constant in a world that seems confusing and scary. She believes the love mother and child demonstrate to each other in Munsch’s book is like the love we share together. Love You Forever gave her the language to express how she feels at this moment. The fact she used these words to express her feelings to me brings me close to tears. I stroke her back gently as I fight back the tears rocking us in the rocking chair knowing this will give her comfort. 

“I’ll like you for always, I’ll love you for always, Forever my baby you’ll be,” I reply. I can feel Carmen’s body relax as she hears these words. I hear her let out a deep sigh of relief as the tension leaves her body. Relief washes over me. The weight of the day is melting away leaving us alone in a dark, cozy room holding on to each other. Fears, tears, and sadness are gone. I hear nothing but the sound of my child’s breathing as I continue to rock us. All that is left is my baby and me. Love You Forever allowed us to say what we could not throughout the day. 

“I need to go to bed momma,”I look down to see a sleepy pair of eyes and smile staring up at me.

“O.K.” I kiss her on the forehead. 

I help her climb off of me and watch her get into bed. Once she is settled, I cover her in the mountains of blankets she loves to sleep in.

I kiss her again on the cheek and say, “I love you to the moon and back.” Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You is a perennial favorite for Carmen. She has always loved rabbits, but something about a parent bunny with a baby bunny really appeals to her. Often, she reenacts scenes of the book with me and her dad telling us “We are the nutbrown hare family!”  

Carmen continues to smile and quietly replies, “Momma, I love you to the moon and back too.” 

“Good night little one,” I smile as I give her one last kiss on the forehead.

“Good night momma,” her eyes close slowly.  

I look back at Carmen one last time before I close her bedroom door. She looks calm and happy.    

These are just two of many books I have read to Carmen over the years, yet they hold a significant meaning for her. When she asks me questions about a character’s actions or choice of words, I ask for her opinion and offer my own. It only makes her want more books read to her and use them as a way to explain complicated emotions and thoughts to us or just have fun acting them out. The language she has created from using books is a unique one that she will use to build a solid foundation to continue crafting more complex words and explain her thoughts more in-depth. Sometimes it’s the language of books that conveys our meaning when our own words fail us.  

July 5, 2020 – San Francisco Bay Area, California

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