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Not long ago, we had a little discussion going in the comments section of the blog about how hard it was for many of us to bond with our newborns. I was one of those moms, too, who could feel only fear, anxiety or panic whenever I looked at the wiggly little bundle in my arms. But when I did finally fall in love with my new baby, I fell HARD.
Once you become a parent, though, you kiss emotional stability goodbye. Because once you become a parent, a potentially crippling fear for your child’s health and safety is constantly at war with a love so big and so powerful, there are times when you think you’ll explode from it. Ultimately, however, that love wins out and the fear is subdued for another day. Because there is nothing--nothing--as powerful as a parents’ love for her/his child.
Such is the premise of GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU by Sam McBratney. He presents to the reader a father and child--Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, adorably created by illustrator Anita Jeram--just as the former is settling the latter into bed for the night. Before he’s fully tucked in, Little Nutbrown Hair asks his father, “Guess how much I love you?” What ensues is a gentle back-and-forth competition of who loves whom more. Whenever Little Nutbrown Hare offers a comparison for how much he loves his father (“I love you as high as I can hop,”) Big Nutbrown Hare replies with an example that’s just a little bit more (“I love you as high as *I* can hop,” and since he’s bigger, he can hop higher).
I was amazed--and not a little troubled--that some of the reviews at Amazon saw this as an illustration of a father trying to one-up and outdo his son and belittle his son’s affection. At no time did I feel the story was like that. I saw it as an illustration of how very deeply parental love runs, and how children can’t possibly know what it’s like until they become parents themselves.
Healthy parental love is why we parents do virtually everything we do. It’s why we discipline. It’s why we set boundaries. It’s why we insist our kids wear their snow boots in the snow. It’s why we hide the Halloween candy at some point. It’s why we say No. It’s why we say Yes. It’s why we swallow our fear when we watch them sleep, and it’s why we sometimes have to hug them so tightly to ourselves they laugh and begin to squirm. And it’s why we stand outside in thirty-some degree temps, hours before a store opens, hoping to score a Nintendo Wii.
Whenever I attend a baby shower these days, I always bring the same gift. This book along with two others that were my son’s favorite when he was a baby: JAMBERRY by Bruce Degan and Sandra Boynton’s GOING TO BED BOOK. I read all three of these books to my son so often over the years that I still have them memorized. When I told my son (now twelve) this morning that I was blogging on GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, he smiled and said, “That’s an awesome book.” I realize now he’ll probably read it to his kids someday, too. Because someday, when he’s a dad, he’ll get the full effect of that book and understand just what it means.
So how about you? What books did you read to your kids? What books are you new moms picking up now? What books do you remember your parents reading to you when you were a child?
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