“Although my reasons for leaving could be many,
You played no part in any.”
I Didn’t Leave Because of You, written by Tyechia White, and illustrated by Mary Manning, is a treasure I found at my local public library. The book tastes bittersweet. While sprinkled with love and further reassurances of love, it also offers a platform for a difficult conversation to have with children: The absence of a parent.
I Didn’t Leave Because of You is a love letter from the absent parent to the child left behind. When parents separate, regardless of the reason, children often feel responsible. They blame themselves and carry a guilt well into adulthood. The burden they feel takes on different manifestations in the classroom or the family home. Additionally, it is often hard for them to voice their pain, whether it be because they struggle to process it, or are afraid to blame the missing parent.
“Whether it be drugs, alcohol, or a case of the mental blues, there are things about me I didn’t want to put you through.” That quote only lists some of the reasons a parent could be away. Indeed, the book explores a few more causes, and hints at the absence as a mean to protect the child. The parent also asks for forgiveness, mentions fighting a battle, and thinking about the child day and night.
This is not an easy thing to tell a child, yet overall the book aims to comfort and empower the reader.
A note on the illustrations:
The first two elements that struck me were the warmth of the colors, and the glow shining through every page, as if to say, “there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.” The children are of all ethnicities, reminding us that tragedy does not discriminate. If green is the color of hope, then hope is the healing background offered by these illustrations.
Why I would recommend it:
• There’s a need for books like this for young children being raised by a single parent.
• It could be a good conversation starter to help a child process the situation.
• A child seeing a picture of another child grappling with the absence of a parent could help him feel safe, and help him open up about his own struggles.
• The diverse ethnic background of the children within the pages of the book states that this issue affects everyone. There is no pointing the finger at a specific community, and I think this is also important for a child to see.
• As the story is written, the missing parent could be someone of any gender. Additionally, the reasons for the absence are varied, making the story easily relatable to the reader with a void in his heart.
What this book also made me wish for:
The story focuses on parents who, seemingly, voluntarily abandoned their child or children. Indeed, throughout the book the missing parent takes responsibility for not being there: “Leaving was something I decided to do…” However the current immigration climate, i.e. children being separated from their mom or dad, made me realize how much books about parents who are forced into leaving their kids are also needed. I think that there’s room for more stories on the topic. That said, I think that this book aimed to focus on the voluntary abandonment of a parent, and it makes sense to me to not try to cover all possible reasons for a parent’s absence in just one volume.
Where I got the book from: Yolo County Public Library.