About Maternage: Mere Meduse

A jellyfish,
it's a transparent body,
with a flower heart.
Tove Jansson

It's Mother's Day on Sunday here in the UK and bookstores are displaying the usual selection of board books for toddlers. So I thought to share a different one, aimed at slightly older children as well as at mothers themselves.

This is in fact a thought-provoking book about motherhood, created by Belgian author/illustrator Kitty Crowther and published in French by l'école des loisirs  in 2014, but sadly never translated into English, nor Italian (come on, why?)

The story
It's a full moon night: we follow two midwives as they reach a house by the sea, to deliver Meduse's baby girl Irisée.
Meduse is a strong-willed, loving and protective mum: from the moment Irisée is born she keeps her close thanks to her enormous tentacles-like hair,  safe from other's people hands and from intrusion. Just like the hard nacre of some shells, Meduse protects her pearl.

As Irisée grows up she becomes more and more curious about the world and she is naturally drawn towards her peers. Meduse tries to hold her back at first becoming a friend and a teacher: she patiently reads to her daughter every night until she realises that she alone can't be enough for the little girl, and that her own personality and mothering style are separating them.

"You can't drop me off, the children are afraid of you", says Irisée on her first day of school.
Meduse finally decides to change and to open up (by all means) their life to the outside world. 
In the last, surprisingly moving images we see Meduse waiting for her daughter with the other parents outside the school, wearing her rebel hair short.
Irisée, who is depicted wearing a bonnet throughout the book, in contrast with her mother, is finally free from it at the end of the book, as she hugs her mother.
Where did Meduse's hair go?
Far from being the monster we know from Greek mythology, her hair went back to the sea, under the form of happy little snakes.

The key points of so-called 'attachment parenting' are all there: home birth, baby wearing, over-protection, dominant-mother figure,  homeschooling. 
Crowther acknowledges the importance of parental empathy and responsiveness, of bodily closeness and touch in the first years,  but she also reminds mothers that both closeness and space are needed at different times of the child's development to nurture his sense of security, build self-confidence and foster independence.
Irisée is indeed a self-confident child, nurtured by parental love and ready to join the community:
"She reads well" say the children at school while listening to her.

Strong, fierce, caring, nurturing and painful at times, Meduse embodies that type of all-consuming motherly love that's quite difficult to explain with words.
This story will resonate well with many stay-at-home mums, who might find themselves over controlling their children's lives, in a constant attempt to find a balance between the home and the outside world as the child grows, between protection and freedom, between holding and letting go.
Motherhood is, for everyone, about learning how to love from afar.

A book that celebrates both children and mothers, showing how the love we give to our children does come back under many forms. And I feel we should really thank our children for constantly encouraging us to keep growing up as human beings alongside them. 
Mere Meduse [2014]
Written & Illustrated by Kitty Crowther
French Edition published by L'Ecole Des Loisirs
Reading age: 3+
Themes: Motherhood, Independence

No comments

Post a comment

Professional Blog Designs by pipdig