Tears of Hope

I cry when I read to my children. I’m not alone in this. My sister tells me that Miss Rumphius (by Barbara Cooney) makes her teary every time her girls ask her to read it. There are just some children’s books that are so rewarding, so compelling, so comforting, so moving that the tears and sobs start coming.

The ending of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster was the last book that made me weep–much to my children’s frustration. “Mommy! Why did you stop?! What are you doing?! Mommy?!”

Let me set the stage for my sob fest. Milo has at last reached the Princess of Pure Reason and her sister, the Princess of Pure Rhyme, who he must rescue. Milo and his companions are exhausted. They’ve been traveling for weeks.  They barely managed to escape the demons, and rather than feeling elated that they made it, Milo feels defeated and overwhelmed.

Milo, honey, I feel you.

Princess Reason offers comfort:

“You may not see it now,” said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo’s puzzled face, “but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way.”

She then describes the beauty and importance of minutia, which I’ve always found soothing. A single raindrop makes a sound that together with its sisters makes a symphony. The ocean is bigger for even one drop added. My small acts of kindness make the world a better place.

The Princess of Reason concludes:

“And it’s much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.”

This already has me worked up–it speaks so directly to what makes my soul hum. But the Princess of Rhyme chimes in. And this is where I start sobbing every time:

“And remember, also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”

Crying again, I like this so much. This feeds my soul, and it’s as nice a description of hope as I’ve come across lately. Quarantining is tough. At-home-learning is tough. Trying to level up on some of my writing goals is tough. What if I never make it? What if I can’t go on much farther?

Thank goodness I have stories to read to my children that tell me, “You are so close. It’s just a little bit farther, past the part you can see. You’re going to get there. You’ll level up. You’ll see your sisters again. You’ll hug your brother and his new doggo. You’ll make it. What you’re doing today matters. Don’t give up!”

What books do you read that never fail to make you cry? Have you ever had to read aloud to kiddos while you’re fighting back tears? Tell me about it in the comments below. I could use some more life-affirming reads as Covid19 is surging and my state approaches another lockdown. Mask up and stay safe and healthy everyone!


  • Ona November 14, 2020 Reply

    I think the best children’s books communicate so much that is profound, and with so much empathy. They can also prepare little people preemptively for life.

    Tara, our close-to-six-year-old, sobbed and sobbed when Harry lost his first quidditch match in Prisoner of Azkaban two nights ago: “But Mama! He had never lost a match!” [Side note: Why did Joanne have to go and ruin so much of my pleasure in sharing HP with my kids by completely misunderstanding who trans people are? We’d be having a Very Harry Christmas otherwise—I get that the text and the author are different, but merch feels like a bridge too far right now, especially with friends who have a trans son.]

    We talked about how no one wins all the time, and it wouldn’t be good if we did. We also talked about how losing can be good and important and valuable even though it’s really hard at the time. I think she feels a little less pressure to be perfect now. But boy. So many tears.

    Quarantine is so hard. I think there is a definite endgame now, and that helps, but the road is long.

    So love your blog!

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