Reading with my children is a place I find my church. It’s where my skin becomes soft and my soul is transported. The Island of Yummy became established as an institution when my babies were young. With one in each arm, and a book open between us, I could always find that fountain of Love. Today I take a look at two books. The first is entitled Love You Forever written by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw. The second book is by one of my favorite people on planet earth, Scott Simon. The book is called Baby We Were Meant For Each Other.
Love You Forever is a darling picture book and if you have not read it please get a copy even if there are no longer children in your home. It will still speak to you. It is about the fortitude of love.
A mother rocks her baby boy and sings to him a song of adoration every night. As the boy grows he does crazy things like flushing his mom’s watch down the toilet and saying not-so-nice words when grandma is visiting.
But every night, no matter how many crazy things that child has done during the day, that mother cradles the boy in her arms and coos a song of love. After her baby has left, she even drives across town, toting a ladder to reach that grown man’s bed. I relate to the drawing of an itty bitty mommy scooping up this grown man to cradle in her arms because my son is now 6 inches taller than me and I still make him sit on my lap from time to time.
It’s a story of connection. Families hold one another. That’s the glue that binds, and it goes so much deeper than merely the arms with which we enfold one another.
Love changed me. It made me tolerant of these persons who upended my life and gave me a better reason to open my eyes each morning. Yes, my son crowds the refrigerator with worms for his upcoming fishing trips. It’s true: my daughter has been known to use my $70 perfume for her Harry Potter potions kit. But that is the whole point of the story. As a parent I fell in love with these creatures who messed up my life. Ironic isn’t it?
I read this book when my baby’s were itty bitty and sang the chorus. I didn’t know how true the story was. I was still naïve to how vast a mother’s heart grows as the love of her child deepens.
“I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
Scott Simon has written a book for grown ups that is equally compelling on the topic of love and how little ones wiggle their way into our lives with their muddy shoes and embarrassing tattoos. His book, Baby We Were Meant For Each Other, is incidentally about adoption but primarily about this glue of arms and connection that makes a family.
Mr. Simon talks about the vast love a baby brings into a home. For his wife and him new baby Elise deepened the love between them, “Our baby had opened new chambers in our hearts.” Children “rewire our souls” teaching us to think about people in timeless fashion. Mr. Simon speaks about the gentility of parental love and how “the headstrong teenager in front of us gets all mixed up with the infant we used to carry and cuddle.”
“I think that transracial adoptions, like mixed marriages, don’t shrink or starve a culture. They nourish it with newcomers.” He says this about adopting children literally. His girls are adopted from China, but as I read his book I took it to heart as a philosophy of how to live.
It is more than a parenting book. It is a cool refreshing glass of optimism poured large to wash away all the previous horror stories about adoption. I’ve both heard and read about the misfits that can’t be overcome. He talks with ease like a dad, experiencing all the same emotions I have as a mom.
He wonders aloud how much he is spoiling his children by giving them too many jelly beans and frequenting Starbucks. Yet he freely admits that because his love overflows he never wants his daughters to lack for anything. Oh how I’ve wondered about these kinds of things. Because his daughters are from China where so many of the girls who shared the streets from which these girls came will have possibly dim futures, he asks about the fairness of life and how his girls will feel about all this as they age.
These musings help me to sigh out layers of worry, hidden buckets of skittles and full Christmas stockings not to mention hours of reading with warm blankets and colorful bandaids at the ready whenever my children faced a bloody booboo. I have never liked the thought that I was showering such abundant love on two when scads of babies in the world were cold.
Scott Simon’s book is about the love that happens in a family and how transformative it is, especially for the parents. Children are a gift. A gift that we spend years unwrapping gum from hair and shoes from hallways, and the packaging is all part of the present.
Because I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.
How about you? Do you have experiences with adopted love? Have you been cradled or been the cradler and had Love transform your heart? What songs does Love make you sing?
Listen to an interview from Morning Edition between Steve Inskeep and Scott Simon here.