Becoming Real

VelveteenRabbitThere was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen.

A few years ago I was really splendid. I was fat and bunchy too, and my hair shone. But then something changed.

For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him…Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.

When your shine disappears and your sateen starts to wear, it’s easy to feel insignificant. All the things I had been on the outside seemed to be gone, and all that was left was the threadbare version of me.

skin-horse

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

All mothers experience this to some degree, I think. The initial boast-and-swagger clouds what is real and we stumble. We look in the mirror one day and realize the splendid version of ourselves is gone. For some, the nursery magic reveals that the mother version of ourselves in its place is actually the Real version but, for others, we think think we’ve lost ourselves and are simply gone.

I thought I wasn’t Real because I wasn’t made that way. I thought I wasn’t made to be a mother and in becoming one had lost who I truly am.

Velveteen-Rabbit-anxious

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

But I didn’t have the wisdom of the Skin Horse. I wasn’t old and wise and experienced and I couldn’t see that I could, in fact, become Real.

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

Becoming Real did hurt. Sometimes a little bit and sometimes a lot. Most of the time I did mind, but I wasn’t Real yet.

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Over the last 3 1/2 years I have become Real, bit by bit.

I didn’t actually know it though. I thought I was unlike other mothers, the same way the Velveteen Rabbit was afraid of what the rabbits in the forest would think of him, not realizing he was in fact Real, and had hind legs just like they did.
Velveteen-and-real-rabbits

There are still people who don’t understand, I think. Those who don’t understand why I felt as though I weren’t good enough, and those who don’t understand why I share all this here.

But the nursery magic Fairy in The Velveteen Rabbit tells the Rabbit what it is to be Real, and the reason he is Real is the same reason I am.

nursery-magic-fairy

“You were Real to the Boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you.”

I know it now. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit, I have my own Boy. And I am Real because he loves me.

 

Text excerpts from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Illustrations by William Nicholson. All courtesy Penn Libraries


 

Comments

  1. I am in tears. You have touched a tender spot in my heart as this woman is on the verge of turning 40. I am losing my luster, but I am gaining something far more valuable. I wouldn’t trade the experiences of my life for anything, but most of all, I wouldn’t trade anything for the love of my two children.

    Thank you. You are beautiful.

    • Thank you so much. That comment is beautiful.

      I’m worried less and less about losing my luster. It’s a lovely feeling.

  2. Eric Storch says:

    I so, so wish my wife would come to understand this. She doesn’t see how wonderful she is now, no matter how often I tell her or show her. All she sees is how she used to be and wishes day after day that she can go back to that person. She knows she’s changed but can’t see it as a positive thing.

    I would show her this post, try to make her understand that she is Real, but she would deny any similarity.

    • Eric, I’ve been pondering this comment since I first read it. It breaks my heart, because I know exactly how she feels. I still feel that way sometimes, just a tiny bit. But more and more I’m better at remembering that I’m different now by default, but also by choice. I just need to choose how I react to those feelings. Not an easy thing to do.

      Wishing for feelings of peace for your wife.

  3. We all do loose our luster and shine when becoming mothers, and it is only some of us understanding the real meaning and joy about it. You are definitely one of them, and besides you are beyond capable to make others understand and see what we don’t see by making these associations and sharing this wonderful writing with us. Thank you! Now I feel much-much better as a mother.

  4. Beautiful. Thank you, Robin.

  5. I’m holding my breath and didn’t even know it.
    Thank you so much.
    Thank you for every second of this post.
    You are an inspiration and a brilliant writer.
    Thank you for taking a story for children and making mothers look at themselves.
    I. Am. Real.

    God I love you.

  6. Okay, now, why did you want to make me weep today?

    This is absolutely stunning. As are you, even with all your fur worn down. You are as real as they come, mama.

    • I set out each morning with the goal of making you cry.

      Kidding, of course. I just love that you know what I meant with this post.

  7. I, too, was holding my breath… letting the reality of your words soak in through my skin like a thick lotion…
    “For some, the nursery magic reveals that the mother version of ourselves in its place is actually the Real version but, for others, we think think we’ve lost ourselves and are simply gone.”
    The latter was my reality… only I didn’t really know that was how I felt… does that even make sense?

    I love your writing… I love your words. I’m sorry that I haven’t stopped by as often as I want to… for some reason, life seems to be getting in the way of … well… life.

    2012 will be different.

    Thank you for this. It is truly magical.
    {{Hugs}}

  8. You are real, honest, and sincere. It’s why we love you. Thank you for sharing this, and your heart, with us. xo

  9. Stunning writing, Robin. You are Real, yes. Slowly but surely, you are. xo

  10. Lindsay @lilloveandluck says:

    Oh, Robin. I have no words except to tell you that I’ll be sharing this with all of the mothers that matter to me. Just beautiful.

  11. oh Robin. This was phenomenal. I understand this and it resonates and is very much part of my story as well. I love when you take a part of my heart and write it out beautifully and in a way I never could. Love you.

  12. This is what I needed to hear. I realized that I spent most of both girls’ first years mourning my loss of identity. Thank you for your insight and wisdom.

    • Me too. I had no idea. NO IDEA that a woman’s identity could be affected so much by becoming a mother. It’s both the most simple and most profound realization I’ve had yet.

  13. Such a lovely and true post, Robin. I’m so glad you are Real. That we all are. It’s painful but authentic.

  14. Beautiful. Aboslutely beautiful.

    Thank you for writing this. As a new mother I have also felt lost and unsure of who I was anymore. Thank you for reminding me that I am just on another stage of my journey.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  15. You have an amazing way with words, my friend.

    I love this… I’m turning 40 in June and this hit close to home. So so close to home.

    • Thank you, Tonya. I’m so glad this spoke to you. I didn’t realize it nearly early enough, but I’m glad I do now.

  16. This is a truly amazing post. I mean TRULY AMAZING! It should be read in birthing classes, handed out by doulas and midwives, posted in birthing centers and labor wards. I will do what I can to share it.

    You are so full of talent and the world is a better place when you share it. Discovering your blog in 2011 was one of the highlights of my year. ❤ Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, Tania. Discovering you and your beautiful book was a highlight of my year as well. The more of us that talk or write about the experience of motherhood, the better off we all are.

  17. Beautiful. Thank you for writing this.

  18. Wow. Thanks for writing this, especially about being “real” because of our child’s love for us. That struck me heavily. I feel SO much better now, as I’ve had a perfectly crummy day.

    Sometimes I feel awful, like a bad mother, because I feel selfish, complacent, and ungrateful many times — like today. I used to be this romantic person who looked at motherhood as something sweet, but it’s far from that. Yes, there are sweet moments between me, my spouse and my child. But it’s those moments outside of the “ideal” that really shape me as a mom.

    On “losing my sheen”: I have to thank my younger brother and husband for making sure I take care of myself! Both taught me the reality of motherhood as a beautifier, and it’s because of them I’ve actually taken care of myself these last couple of years as a mom. Funny, but true: Sometimes the men in our lives see beyond what we, as moms, know as our only reality. For that, I’m truly grateful.

    Sorry to ramble on. I’m just grateful I read this today. Happy SITS Day! :)

  19. Robin, thank you for allowing yourself to be transparent and vulnerable with us. And I love how you used the words and illustrations of the Velveteen Rabbit to tell us your story. Just beautiful!

  20. Wow. Just wow. You have captured so perfectly what I feel like all mothers struggle with at some point.

    With me it is a little bit the opposite. I felt so natural, so real, as the mother of little ones. As my children have gotten older (now 12,10, and 5) I feel like it is so much harder to know my place. To figure out what the real me is.

  21. You truly capture the MOMification of woman in this post (which is amazing & like no other I have ever read).

  22. You brought a tear to my eye and a fist pump of “YES!” all at the same time…This is the best post I read all week. Love that Velveteen Rabbit :)

    Happy SITS Day!

  23. The Valveteen Rabbit has always been my favorite children’s book. It’s the book I include with every baby gift. I love it even more now. What a lovely job you did of explaining how it feels to be a new mom. I remember those feelings of inadequacy so well, even though my baby is 30 years old.

    I hope your SITS day is fabulous.

  24. That was written so well…Beautiful!

  25. This is so very beautifully written. It hits someplace deep inside of me and, like many others have said, I’m holding back some tears. As I was reading this, I let out a big sigh of relief to have someone put into words the way that I have been feeling lately, even though I’m not a new mom anymore. The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorite books too. Thank you for this.

  26. Beautifully written! Happy SITS Day!

  27. Lovely and perceptive. A lot of mother’s have felt this way at one time or another. You are not alone.

  28. Robin, I love this post. It brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I always loved the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, and I love how you interwove his story and that of the Skin Horse with yours. As someone who recently turned 50, I know what you mean about seeing your shine disappear and questioning your significance. But the beauty of maturing is that the Real begins to shine, as you poignantly noted, and people are blessed by the beauty of the Real in us. Thanks so much for sharing this; it meant a lot.

  29. The Velveteen always made me cry because the child has to lose it, but i love your version of it.

  30. What a beautiful weaving of your tale mixed with a precious fairy tale. Well done.

    It’s so important that we tell our stories. Staying silent leaves us alone and leaves others alone. We need each other. That’s a big part of why I write, especially about the difficult things. Not everyone is ready to talk. I offer my voice for them.

    Thank you for adding your voice to the choir.

  31. Such a beautifully written post! Happy SITS day!

  32. loveliness! What a beautiful interweaving of a treasured story and a treasured transformation!

    Enjoy your SITS day! :)

  33. I love what you’ve written, and I agree with it. Becoming a Mama changes a woman in so many ways.

    And there is beauty in becoming Real, becoming that Mama that the Boy loves.

    But what about the woman I was? Am I wrong to mourn the loss of her? How can I be so happy to (finally) be a Mama, and yet miss who I was before I became Mama?

    Because you see, being Mama isn’t enough sometimes. I still have to find a way to be Wife and Friend and a Professional – and in working so hard to become Real, I seem to have forgotten how to be all those other people. I forgot how to be me, and other people still need her.

  34. What an incredible post – I was transported, immediately, into your world and out of my own. I’ve read many, many lovely pieces on mothering but this has to be one of the very best. Truly, you are such a gifted writer.

  35. Robin – this is beautiful! As someone who is nearing 50 with two teenagers and nearly 10 years as a reluctant SAHM, this really touched me. I actually was not familiar with the Velveteen Rabbit story in specifics and you did a wonderful job creating an analogy to your own and so many of our lives.

    I hope you are enjoying your SITS day!

  36. Such a lovely treat for your son to be raised by a mom who is real. I tip my hat to you.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

  37. Robin, this is really the realest of real posts I think I’ve read :) There is such beauty in finding out that the bones of you are what counts. The very smallest, weakest, worn out part of us is still more than enough. Thanks for sharing this :)

  38. Beautiful post! Happy SITS day!!

  39. What a beautiful, beautiful way of putting it.

    And for me, a woman who never had children, what you’ve written is still relate-able. Feeling broken (for me) was feeling wounded. So sure, I’ve felt like the velveteen rabbit too. Yet, because of realizing the love of God (and really feeling it), I’m happy that I found out that I am really loved, accepted, and forgiven. And… REAL.

    I love your style! From your pain, you’ve birthed a beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing it.

  40. That’s the sweetest thing I’ve read all day… happy SITS day!

  41. Sigh – such beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing this again with us, Robin.

  42. Oh this was just so beautiful. I love the metaphor of Velveteen rabbits for moms. And it’s so ironic – today for the Yeah Write link up I posted one that referenced how the only moms I like to hang out with are the tattered ones who are real like the Velveteen rabbit. Coincidence!
    Thanks for linking up to help us celebrate. I look forward to reading more of your blog – I’m a fan now, after reading this! See you on FB! (-:

  43. Is there any better metaphor for life and love personal growth than The Velveteen Rabbit?

    I think not. :)

  44. Oh mama, this is so much the reason why I titled my blog what it is. I 100% know what you mean. Thank you for this; I’m glad I got to see it (I missed it back in Jan, not sure I was following you then…).

  45. Robin, I love that story. I actually use it on every one of my emails replies. It is a beautiful, wonderful story of growing up and “Becoming” and I love what you found in those words.

    I am so glad I got to read this today….it’s changed my day, thank you.
    xoxox

  46. I just love how you applied this beautiful children’s story to your own grown-up life. This is a lovely post–and clearly affected lots of us! :)

  47. This is so beautiful. The analogy of the book was perfect.

  48. Love this and it’s such a beautiful comparison. The Velvetine Rabbit always makes me a little sad at the end.

  49. This was a beautiful post. So honest and so true.

  50. Stunning parallels. And, again, so inspiring. At 7 months T is beginning to show me signs that he loves me (or I am recovering well enough to see the signs that were already there?) and they help me to feel stronger. He doesn’t care if I’m perfect, he loves me even when my skin falls off. I just have to have faith in that, and your words help.

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  1. […] So whether you saw it at the time or are just coming across it now, I’d love for you to read Becoming Real. […]

  2. […] over and read this post called Becoming Real, about losing yourself when you become a mother. Isn’t it amazing? Robin writes so […]