Operation Mommy – Love You Forever, But Won’t Break And Enter
Ok, can we talk for a second about the children’s classic “Love You Forever”? This is one of those moments, when you read the book to the child, and then pause, and say to yourself… “what the hell did I just read?”.
It starts very sweetly, indeed. A mother, an infant, a lullaby. The infant becomes a toddler, and then an older child, as children tend to do.
And then it gets weird.
Allow me to quote directly:
“At night time, when that teenager was asleep, the mother opened the door to his room, crawled across the floor and looked up over the side of the bed. If he was really asleep she picked up that great big boy and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. ”
Yes, yes, the book is probably a metaphor for the eternity of parental love, and how incredibly sad it is when our children grow up, and leave us, and the circle of life, as our children go on to have children of their own, blah blah blah.
As a teenager, I would have a heart attack, if I saw my mother crawling across the floor in my bedroom.
Oh, but it’s an old book, you might say! Yeah. Not that old. I am pretty sure climbing into someone’s window in the middle of the night was still frowned upon in 1986.
But wait, there’s more.
“That teenager grew. He grew and he grew and he grew. He grew until he was a grown-up man. He left home and got a house across town. But sometimes on dark nights the mother got into her car and drove across town. If all the lights in her son’s house were out, she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor, and looked up over the side of his bed. If that great big man was really asleep she picked him up and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.”
Dear friends and family, if in twenty years or so, you’ll find me driving across town in the middle of the night in order to break and enter into my adult child’s house, feel free to get me committed.
I was relieved to find out that I was not alone, as Erica June referred to “Love You Forever” as “the book for the sociopath in all of us, aka The Scariest Mother-In-Law In History” in her HuffPost article.
Some will point out that there’s more to the story. Munsch wrote the book after him and his wife suffered two stillbirths. The lullaby in the book was the song that Munsch sang to himself as a way to express his grief. It’s incredibly tragic. But most readers do not have a backstory. A book has to stand on its own. If a book reads creepy without the backstory, then… it doesn’t really stand on its own, does it?
Many love this book, as it seems to capture parental nostalgia. Maria Shriver talked about this book on Oprah, and how she could never get through this book without crying. In other words, this book is more for parents, than for children. Kind of like “Go The Fuck To Sleep”.
Be as it may… if I hate reading the book, then I don’t want to keep reading the book. The goal is not to get stuck with children’s books I hate by the time my kid is old enough to show preferences for certain titles.