Last week I had a chance to read to Lila’s pre-k class, an experience that was equal parts terrifying (25 unfiltered small children in my personal space) and rewarding (25 people giving me their undivided attention with zero judgement).
We read The Lorax, a current favorite, and when I say “we,” I mean it – sister co-narrated the entire book with me. It went really well — until the last page. The page with the quote this story is always known for:
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It’s not.
Literally out of NOWHERE I totally choked up reading it: tears, croaky voice, etc. I managed to semi-awkwardly finish and my adorable audience didn’t seem to notice.
I’ve read this story no fewer than 40 times and I’ve never reacted that way before. I don’t actually know if I’ve ever had an emotional response to a children’s book. It felt completely out of character and I spent the evening analyzing wtf had overcome me in that classroom.
And honestly, I think it was the fact that earlier that day I’d heard a gut wrenching NPR story interviewing survivors of various school shootings. The raw emotion of that segment was enough to bring anyone to tears, made infinitely worse by the fact that beyond thoughts and prayers, I have to wonder what we’ve actually done to keep our babies safer.
I saw the article below the same day and recognized that ultimately, what I experienced in that classroom was a profound sadness about an inevitable loss of innocence — of safety and protection — that’s been kept sacred within those walls.
I’m not just talking about violent acts, though.
Lila and her classmates — many of whom I’ve known since they were babies — will go to kindergarten later this year. And no matter where we obsess about sending them, and how many school tours we endure, every one of them will start a new chapter. Each of them will shed the last remaining traces of toddlerhood in exchange for full-fledged childhood.
And it’s amazing. And exciting. But also so, so, sad. This change marks the end of a beautiful, insulated stage of life and motherhood. One that’s been challenging, sure, but indescribably wonderful.
That Lorax quote though…it makes me question if I (or anyone, really) is caring enough — a whole awful lot — to make the world a better place for the next generation. And for better or for worse, that’s enough to make me cry in front of two dozen small humans.