"Hey, guys. Take a look at this."
A little finger points to the white words on the glossy cover.
"And… life… And Life Comes… BACK! Tricia Lott Williford! Mommy! It's your book!"
"It's my book, guys! And look at this page, right here." I open to the dedication page.
"For Tucker and Tyler. For Tucker and Tyler! For Tucker and Tyler?
"Have you ever had a book dedicated to you before?"
"Never, not in my whole life!"
"Well, here you go. This one is."
"Are we in it? Did you talk about us?"
"I sure did." Although not as much as I thought I would, because in the writing the story emerged as a love story rather than a book about little boys or single moms or parenting. "You're in there."
"Read to us! Read to us!"
We pile the three of us into one outdoor dining chair on the deck, which is about as awkward as it sounds. But they wanted to be near me, on top of me, in the crooks of my arms and under my chin, and they don't realize that they've grown. They just push their puzzle pieces into these tight spots, and so, of course, I let them.
They light up and laugh over their own antics. One says, "Is that all you said? Is there more in there?" Oh, there's more in there. We jump around in the text, and I read their names in print in one scene after another.
It was a great, great moment. I asked them, "Are you okay with all the things in there about you?"
"Yes! Oh, yes!"
"Even some of the potty words you said when you were so little?"
"Yes! It's part of the story!"
"Okay. If you change your mind, you tell me. And I'll change the book."
"Really? You can change the book?"
"I can. I have one more chance, and I can't make lots of changes, but I can make a change like that. You are more important to me than any sentence in any book."
A few days later, one says to me, "I really actually think maybe I don't want the book to say that. Just not exactly that."
I take out my pen and my notebook immediately. "Then let's change it."
"Really, Mommy?" I suspect this is more of a test than a true, real offense, but I will set this precedentn carefully.
"Really, buddy. What do you want it to say instead? It has to be funny, because that part was funny. But we can change it a little so you won't be embarrassed."
And so we changed it.
I put my notebook away, and I looked at one of my sons, squarely, eye to eye. "These are very important words, buddy. Are you ready? You are more important than anything I will ever write for anyone, anywhere, on any page, in any book. You matter more to me, and you get the final vote. If you don't want it, I won't write it. And that will always be true."
I look to his brother, and I repeat the same words. Because one should hear these words spoken directly to him, about him, not a blanket statement that applies to anyone else.
Sweet boys, I promise this to you. You have my word, my sacred oath.
And from this day forward, don't ever believe anyone, ever, anywhere, in your family or in the far corners of the world, who suggests I exploited or disrespected you. If you have any questions about what I've written or what I will write, you can ask me and I will always be honest with you. You are my sons before you are anything else. And you are not characters in a story, part of the conflict and resolution, or pieces of the story arc.
You are mine. And you are safe in this family, in our home, and in my words.
So help me, God.