There is a mother who becomes small. She becomes almost invisible when her baby decides she never wants to sleep and in response she chooses to stop eating. This is the theme at the center of the first issue written by Lidia Ravera, many souls together, and illustrated by Monica Barengo: “The little girl who never slept”, in the bookshop for Rizzoli from April 27.
An illustrated book for children. How was this project born?
«This register was not born as projects are born. It flowed freely, from a love and a contingent problem, as the songs of the popular tradition are born.
Love is Mara, my granddaughter who, at the time, was three years old. The problem is that Mara did not want to sleep, she hated the afternoon nap, and in the evening, after dinner, she absolutely wanted to continue living, she is a child full of energy. I knew I would acquire points to my daughter, her mother, if I could get her to close her eyes. So I told her stories, invented on the spot… but a writer grandmother is a real sentence: she tells stories that don’t make you want to sleep at all. “
Why did you decide to dedicate it to “sleep”?
«My daughter is a textbook mother: the three-year-old girl has to sleep 10 hours at night, plus two hours of rest in the day. I empathized with the baby because I’m the type who would like to live 24 hours a day, even now that I’m old. We were both right and we were both wrong, me and her mother. I to allow Mara to avoid the beneficial gift of rest, my daughter to apply the rule too rigorously. Mothers need / want their babies to sleep and their babies to eat. In short: one for sleep and one for food, these are the hardest battles on the maternity front “.
That mother who becomes small tells a lot about the condition in which women often experience motherhood. Often sun. Who is that mom inspired by? Who are you talking to?
“I was inspired by all the mothers, who are often not seen, first of all by those voracious adorable selfish little ones who are the children. Mom is taken for granted. His love is taken for granted, his pain is invisible. My daughter suffered when she couldn’t get her daughter to sleep. He said to me: look, he has dark circles. It wasn’t true, but I could feel her anxiety. And I thought he would give anything to see his little girl sleep. So I invented a mother who goes on hunger strike, because her little girl goes on a sleep strike ».
Did he have a ritual to put his son to sleep? How do you remember the first months of life with him?
“I used to tell him scary stories, but all with a happy ending. If a story manages to scare you, the happy ending gives you intense joy. And so you learn that, as in life, the difficulties and the pain, they are, besides inevitable, important, because overcoming them gives you the joy of relief. Fairy tales serve to strengthen defenses, if they do not play with fear they are of no use. The first months of my son’s life I remember them and I will always remember them, as the maximum of pain and the maximum of joy: he was one month old when he contracted a virus that was around at that time, the synciziale, they took it away from me and put it in a glass cradle. For nine days he was in the hospital. I took off the milk with the breast pump and brought it to him. After eight days I was able to breastfeed him. He sucked. He healed quickly and completely. He never got sick again. A heavy fairy tale. A happy ending that has multiplied my love. For him, for his newborn baby, Alice, my second granddaughter. ‘
Together with his son Nicola, he raised Maddalena, daughter of his sister Mara who died prematurely. What mother was and is she today?
“I have been a busy and enthusiastic mother. I’ve always had three jobs, but I’ve always found time for the children. Because it gave me joy, it wasn’t a sacrifice. I think growing up and forming human beings is an amazing creative adventure. An emotion of the mind and a discovery of feeling. When my single mother sister passed away, I adopted her little girl, without a doubt without a hesitation. I went to pick her up in Milan and took her to Rome. And taking care of her helped me metabolize the grief. Almost 30 years have passed and Maddalena is my daughter as much as Nicola, I have to make an effort to remember that I didn’t give birth to her ».
Is there anything you would have done differently today?
“No, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have done anything different. I watched them grow up with attention, with love, leaving them free, respecting their need to measure themselves with the world without the mediation of their parents … now one is a good writer and screenwriter, the other teaches at a good university in the distant state of Texas. They gave me a granddaughter each. And if the covid gives us a break this summer we will see each other, all together ».