Posted by Saraline , Friday, April 23, 2010 10:48 AM
Throughout history, parents have told their children cautionary tales. Fairy tales are full of witches putting spells on people and locking them away in towers, evil stepmothers, and hungry wolves disguised as benevolent grandmothers. The message is that the world is a dangerous place and you should be careful.
Nowadays, we also have children's stories about unconditional love. When I was a kid, one of my favourite stories in this category was Love you Forever by Robert Munsch. It's about a mother who sings a song to her son, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." When the mother grows old, the son sings the song to her, replacing the word "baby" with "mommy." Afterwards, he goes home to sing the song to his newborn daughter. It's a very popular book and has been known to make people cry.
Last year, Love you Forever came up in an online parenting community that I'm in. Some people said that they found the book to be creepy because of the part where the mother drives across town with a ladder and climbs into her adult son's bedroom while he's sleeping to sing him the song. They have a point. Entering somebody else's house without their permission is a criminal offense. A mother climbing in through her adult son's window to sing to him while he sleeps is unhealthy and it's probably time to cut the umbilical cord.
A couple of other people in the parenting community pointed out two things when defending the book. One, the instance with the mother climbing into her son's room is in line with Munsch's usual writing style. Part of the charm of his stories is that they are often exaggerated and over the top. His books have giant fathers who eat chocolate covered bricks for dessert, trains that come out of nowhere and stop in houses that have just been cleaned up, and snowsuits that have five zippers, 10 buckles, and 17 snaps. Two, some children feel happy and secure about the idea that their mothers will always love them enough to sing lullabies to them, even when they're all grown up.
Either way, I love Robert Munsch, but I'll never feel the same way about Love You Forever again.
I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt takes a more lighthearted approach to a mother's unconditional love. When the mother tells her son that she loves him, he asks her if she would still love him if he were a super smelly skunk, a meat-eating dinosaur, or a scary swamp monster. His mother, of course, assures him that she would love him no matter what.
"But, Mama, but, Mama, what if i were an alligator with big, sharp teeth?"
"I'd buy you a bigger toothbrush! And if your throat hurt, I'd look inside your huge mouth. I'd tell you, 'I love you, my dangerous alligator.'"
It's a fun and warm story, and the illustrations are nice, too.