The children’s librarian at our local branch receives celebrity treatment from my children. My son used to call her “The Reader” in hushed tones, but we switched to “Ms. Pamela” after Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes took the nickname out of PG territory.
The bags full of books we’ve carried home from the library each week for the past six years have varied in quality. We’ve read many truly terrific children’s books. We’ve read heaps of mediocre books. And, we’ve had our share of terrible books.
Books about adjusting to siblings seem especially likely to be horrible. Far too many of them focus on the negatives. A few essentially serve as primers on how to misbehave and act out in inappropriate ways.
But, the award for Creepiest Book to Ever Enter our Home goes to Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Some of you are already hating me, I know. This book is beloved by parents all over the globe for reasons I cannot comprehend. The back cover claims that it is about “the enduring nature of parent’s love and how it crosses generations.” That sounds lovely. Vague, but lovely.
Let’s talk specifics.
The book opens with a mom holding her new baby in her arms while she rocks him and sings:
“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”
Isn’t that sweet? I think so too.
On the next page, the baby has grown into a two-year-old who runs around the house pulling books off shelves, food out of the fridge and flushing his mom’s watch down the toilet. Who thinks an illustrated primer on how to properly execute the terrible twos is a good idea? The book says that despite the bad behavior that drives his mom crazy, she still sneaks into his room at night and rocks him while singing her loving song.
The boy grows into a nine-year-old who swears in front of his grandma and never wants to take a bath or come in for dinner. But, the mom still sneaks into his room when he’s sleeping, crawls across the floor and rocks him while she sings each night.
The sleep rocking professions of love continue through the teenage years.
Finally, the boy becomes a man and moves into a house across town.
At this point in the story, I want to yell for him to move farther away. “Get out of there! Your mom has no boundaries. Run while you can!”
But, he never listens. The next few pages of the book give me the creeps. Here is my annotated version of the text:
“But sometimes on dark nights the mother got into her car and drove across town with a ladder on top of her car. If all the lights in her son’s house were out (clearly indicating that he was hoping for visitors), she opened his bedroom window, crawled across the floor, and looked up over the side of his bed. Not surprisingly, he was sleeping alone. Probably because his previous lovers had been totally creeped out by his mom’s routine midnight break-ins. If that great big man was really asleep (because love is best shown to an unconscious recipient rather than expressed during waking hours) she picked him up and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And while she rocked him she sang what used to be a sweet song but now seems like a twisted compulsion.”
Seriously? Who thinks this is sweet? My mom is not great with boundaries but even she would draw the line at sneaking through my window in the middle of the night.
Admittedly, the book takes a turn for the touching when the mom gets sick and the son rocks her while he sings a reciprocal love song.
Presumably dealing with the loss of his mother, we see the man rocking his own child and singing his mom’s love song to her. This is sweet and appropriate for an infant.
But, chances are that he will continue this rocking routine far longer than appropriate.
That is the danger of family dysfunction – it’s hereditary.