Spiritual books for kids (and moms): The Story of Ferdinand

I bought each of my boys a special hardcover book for their first Christmas.  I love any excuse to go to the bookstore, and it was a real nostalgia trip to revisit all those titles I loved when I was young.  It wasn’t easy to choose, but when I was shopping for Lukey and saw The Story of Ferdinand on the shelves, I knew I’d found my gift.

There is something so appealing about this book.  I love the story by Munro Leaf, and the black-and-white drawings by Robert Lawson.  I love how Lawson works in the real scenery of Spain (when I was a kid, my uncle, who did graduate research there, pointed out the pictures of places he had actually visited during his stay).  And I love Ferdinand, the pacifist bull who wants nothing more than to sit under his cork tree and smell the flowers.   I love him as a wobbly calf, and I love him later, when he is a large, placid, gentle bull.

If you recall the story, all the other bulls are eager to be chosen for the bullfights in Madrid.  They prance around, showing off, trying to look all macho and tough for the men who are coming to choose.  Through a misunderstanding, the men  end up picking Ferdinand, and yet he doesn’t play the game.  When he gets to the arena, with all the cheering crowds and the ladies with flowers in their hair, he just sits and smells the air.  Nothing the egotistical matador can do will make him get up and fight.  In the end, they give up and take him back home to his favorite cork tree.  “He is very happy,” the narrator tells us.

I like the character of Ferdinand because he simply doesn’t care about glory, or fame.  He’s kind of a bovine mystic, actually — all he wants is to be one with nature, quietly and without fanfare.  Adulation and applause means nothing to him. His life is centered on what we would call mindfulness, and he doesn’t need anyone else to give that to him.   He instinctively knows how to appreciate the moment, and his surroundings.

As a mom, there are plenty of little moments with my kids where I stop and savor the experience.  And yet there are also many  times when I am looking at my watch, or counting the hours until bedtime and some time alone, or typing away at my laptop, half-listening to Matthew explain something about the complicated building block structure he is making at my feet.   It is often hard for me to do the mindfulness thing when it comes to the daily experience of parenting, because my mind is often racing ahead to the thing that is more pressing, more intellectually stimulating.  And yet time passes quickly, and kids grow up fast.  There will come a day when they are out of the house, and I will think back to these days, and wish I had savored them more.   Going for the glory of a splashy byline or a book contract is all very well, but I think I need a little more Ferdinand in my daily life.  I don’t want any parenting regrets, somewhere down the road.

So that’s what I take from this Spanish bull: a call to mindfulness.   His story is a sweet reminder that we  moms need to stop and smell the flowers, in the company of our kids, while we still can.

 The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. To read more about the Spiritual Books series of posts, click here.

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