Family relationships are among the topics most explored in folktales. Grandparents, god parents, special aunts, prized cousins, parents, sons and daughters and the like comprise basic family units all over the world. Regardless of the society there are folktales about families coming together and families falling apart. That’s because families are an important part of everyone’s life cycles.
Best-selling Author and Artist Marianne Richmond explores the poignancy of parenthood in her newest book "If I Could Keep You Little…” ($15.99, Sourcebooks, Nov. 2010). Here she captures in very few words and with great artistic talent the joyful moments of early child-parent/caretaker relations and how those relations change.
As a chronicle for commonplace events, such as cutting up your child’s bread into fun shapes and tossing your child in the air, her work highlights the everyday moments that are soon missed by parents and caretakers when the child becomes too old for such interactions. And yet, those experiences are replaced with a new set of moments that are as precious.
Richmond reveals the upcoming moments with a sense of beauty and grace for she, as folk teller, reminds adults that they cannot keep a child young forever. To do so, the picture book advises, is to hinder the child’s ability to experience what the rest of life has to offer.
For example: “If I could keep you little, I’d keep you close to me. But then I’d miss you growing into who you’re meant to be!”
The book is gentle in its approach and yet very powerful. As a folktale it teaches a very important lesson: treasure the memories but remember to let go when the time comes (because that opens the door for new memories). And it does!
It also speaks to children, consoling them in a way that is tender. The author shows them how helpful it is for parents to pull back and get out of the way in order to make room for them to grow.
As the mother of a 16 year old vivacious daughter I relished the memories this book evoked and I appreciated the reminder that children do grow into wonderful people, much like caterpillars becomes butterflies.