(Not too late, Pai (Hank’s dad) and I in bed watching a movie, kids in bed… or so we thought when there was a knock at the door)
Pai: (pausing the movie)
Me: Come in.
Pai: Is everything okay?
Molly: (from their shared bedroom) Mano (brother) sad. Don’t cry, mano (brother).
Hank: (wailing, floods of tears) MY CHILDHOOD IS OVER!!!!
Molly: (from their shared bedroom) MANO!! PAPA! (crying because her brother is crying)
Me: Oh honey, come over here.
Pai: I’ll get the girl.
Me: Crawl up here in this big bed right now.
Hank: (weeping, falling into my arms)
Me: (giving him space to cry)
Hank: It’s over.
Me: Is it?
Hank: (stuttered speech) It is. It’s over and I am not ready.
Me: (holding him tight)
Hank: I’m not ready.
Me: I agree.
Hank: I have been pretending.
Me: (nodding into his shoulder)
Hank: I have been pretending that everything is okay, but I am not okay. I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to give up my blue blanket (his childhood lovie that over vacation he said he no longer needed and asked me to pack away) and I don’t want to go to a new school.
Me: Change is the hardest.
Hank: I don’t want to change.
Me: One of the only things you can count on in life is change. Change cannot be avoided and you will learn to evolve with those changes.
Hank: Everything is changing too fast! My body, my life! It all hurts.
Me: (rubbing his back, soothing tone of voice) Growing pains aren’t just physical. I am listening.
Hank: I didn’t know. I thought I was doing so well. Then we were all on the couch, eating popcorn and I just kept thinking, “I don’t want this to end.” And then that thought kept growing and pounding in my heart and I just…
Me: Growing older, changing schools, learning new things and making new friends these changes are unavoidable, but you don’t have to change. You don’t ever stop being you. You never have to stop being the you you are right now, because this Hank (putting my hand on his heart), now Hank, is a very special someone to know. Aging, loving, learning are all apart of evolving, but you never have to stop being yourself, this self. Stay you don’t change you. Stay you while your world evolves to meet you. People don’t tell you that.
Hank: They don’t.
Me: But it’s true. Your body will change, you will learn algebra and geometry and know where Kazakhstan is on a map, but you can still be this Hank, the Hank you are today, when you’re 14, 35, 67, 105. And if you give yourself permission to be you, stay you, while the world changes and you evolve with it then you will be ahead of the game, because you are a wonderful person and adding a bit more independence and responsibility to the person you are will only add to your special, caring, precious heart. Don’t listen to the lying parts of your brain, to what media claims and kids at school say that cause you to doubt. Listen to me. Do you trust me?
Me: Then hear me when I tell you I never grew up. I never grew up and I am better for it. I am the same me that brought swamps in ziplock bags to kindergarten and who hated school after 3rd grade and lived inside her imagination and loved to draw and sing and go cloud gazing. I am the same person who was artsy and avant guard in middle and high school, who cried in movie theaters and standing in front of paintings. I am the same person I was when I was your age and I have a mortgage and student loans and take a large amount of pills to manage my doenças (diseases). I am that same person who is a mestre de oleiro (potter) and an author and a blogger and your mother. And I miss my frog, Walter, my “blue blanket” from when I was young every day of this part of my life since he was lost when I thought I had to let go of my childhood things.
Hank: You do?
Me: Absolutely, he was my lovie and my favorite huggable confidant! He was a printed pillow of a frog in a waist coat with spectacles and everyone feels the way you are feeling right now! Everyone! But the correct answer is to not grow up! Evolve instead! Let the world change around you while you evolve to meet it’s demands, but whatever you do, don’t grow up. Be you, the real you, this you and support your wild and precious heart while you learn and grow and add new tools to your life toolbox.
Pai: (with Molly in his arms) And sleep with blue blanket. (tossing Hank’s lovie into his arms)
Molly: Hi Mano (brother)! Feel better?
Hank: (engulfing his blue blanket with relief and love) Hi Mana (sister), I’m feeling better.
Molly: I’m feeling better, too.
Hank: You are?
Molly: Yah! Me, too!
Hank: Let’s go to bed, Mana (sister).
Molly: Yah. (head on her pai’s shoulder)
Pai: (leaves the room to tuck Molly into bed)
Me: Thank you for telling me how you feel.
Hank: (sigh) It was sitting with me for a while. I was trying to be strong, but I couldn’t keep it in.
Me: You did the right thing.
Hank: I feel better now. I feel like I can do this. I was so sure on the 13th (when school starts) it was all ending.
Me: Oh no, some things will change and evolve, but who you are, as long as you let it, will always be the same. You just have to give yourself permission to never, ever grow up.
Hank: Why don’t people know this? Like, why don’t people talk about this?
Me: Because it is a sad fact that so very many people in the world felt the exact same way you do right now, but forced that painful, terrified feeling deep into their soul and grew up with a broken heart because of it.
Hank: Like, so very many people. Like…
Me: Most people?
Hank: (deep sigh of recognition) Yah!
Me: I know.
Hank: But why?
Me: Because the world isn’t fair, because not everyone is born to the right tribe, because sadness is a trap, because comparison is the thief of joy, because…
Pai: Because they didn’t have you for their mother.
Hank: (deep sigh) I feel better. (hugging his blue blanket to his face) Goodnight. (bouncing off the bed) I love you, papa. I love you, my mama.
Pai: Love you (wrapping Hank in a hug).
Me: Wait for me. I wanna tuck you into bed.
Molly: (from their shared room) Me, too. Tuck, me too!
Me: Right, be prepared for the coziest nests I can possibly make.
Hank: (tears replaced by giggles dives into bed and soon is fast asleep)