I call my 8 year old son, Eli, “my little bunny.” Today I tossed out the endearing appellation and he looked at me askew and said, “Why do you call me that?”
I told him it was from one of my favorite children’s books, “The Runaway Bunny,” that I used to read to him when he was a toddler. He had no recollection of the book. “Oh, it was such a sweet book,” I recounted. “It was about this little bunny who wanted to run away from his mother.” Hmmm…in this instant it didn’t seem all that sweet to me. “And no matter how he imagines himself running away, his mother always finds a way to hunt him down and drag him back to their sheltered little bunny hole.” OK, I didn’t actually say that last part. But it’s the truth. Suddenly I am not sure what was wrong with me that I not only read that book to my little boy countless times, but that I dubbed it my favorite and actually took to calling him “my little bunny.” OMG, I’m a monster.
I went back and reread the book. My greatest fears were confirmed. Talk about helicopter moms. Everything was starting to make sense; Eli’s intrepid approach to social situations, his continued vows to not attend overnight camp, his insistence that he will never (ever) leave home. It was all my fault. The poor boy thinks that if he even ventures a few miles away from the homestead, I will come after him like some kind of vicious Cassowary and forcibly “guide” him back to where he “belongs” and where I’ll be best able to keep my Machiavellian claws dug deep into his stifled spirit.
Oh, how horrific. “If you become a sailboat and sail away from me,”says the fictitious rabbit, “I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.” This mother will stop at nothing to get her wayward youngster back. The saddest part of the whole story is that by the end, the poor hare, whose only goal was to get away from his domineering matriarch, gives up entirely, and resigns himself to an Oedipal life with mama rabbit, eating carrots and believing himself incapable of ever venturing into the world on his own.
Eli starts at a new school next week. I think I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He’s excited to meet his teachers and a whole new cadre of potential friends in the neighborhood. I’m petrified.
Letting them “run away,” even if it’s just to a new school, is harder than you’d think. Maybe I’m being too hard on Mama Rabbit.