An Excerpt from one of my favorite children’s stories:
The Velveteen Rabbit
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.
“The Boy’s Uncle made me Real,” he said. “That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
When I read this passage to Noah last week I began to cry and tried to hold him a little bit closer. I connected with the story in a way I never had before. As parents we are very much like the rabbit (or we should try to be). I realized a while ago that is very hard to be a good mom while you are worrying about “your sharp edges or being easily broken”. Good moms do not get to sit on the shelf and look pretty. Good moms are the rabbit that is dragged around, squeezed, left in the backyard and hugged for comfort at night.
When we become parents we often give up a lot of things that used to make us feel valued: nice clothes (I mean, come on- there will be ketchup on it before the end of the day!), high heels, frequent lunches out, perfect hair, spontaneous travel, a career, spending sprees, time to shut out the world and read for hours at a time… the list goes on. Some sacrifices are easier to part with than others.
The funny thing is that none of those things really made me happy. Yes, they are fun! But they never did, and still do not bring me the joy and purpose that I feel when I really love my children and feel that simple love radiating back from them.
I am so grateful that I have been loved. Loved so much that I have gray hairs, bags under my eyes, a muffin top and stretch marks!
Being loved and loving in return does hurt sometimes. When we truly love someone we want so badly to help them, to encourage them and to help them succeed. It hurts when they fail. It hurts when we have to step back and let them fail. Love hurts when we allow anger, pride and selfishness get in the way. When we really love someone- we cannot brush off those feelings but have to work through them together. Love hurts when we do not feel loved in return. Love hurts, but it is the love and the hurt that makes us real.
I LOVE that I get to experience all of the many faces of love, hurt and joy! I am grateful to have a wonderful friend, husband and partner along the way. I am grateful that he helps me see the value in what I do each day and that he loves me despite my many flaws and broken pieces.
Happy Valentines Day!