A classroom full of preschoolers were assembled on the carpet waiting for their teacher to begin story time. We the parents were sitting at tables and standing around the perimeter of the room watching our wee ones in their school-day environment. All was well until the teacher, Ms. M., pulls out “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. Oh! My heart! It’s a tear-jerker.
At this point I was already in a fragile state. An hour earlier Madison graduated from preschool and proudly displayed her certificate for camera-happy mama. Just 10 minutes ago Madison and Jameson, and all the other children, received certificates and kind words for one of their unique attributes as expressed by their teachers as part of Preschool Appreciation. I was on a mama high, and proud.
Ms. M. begins reading “Love You Forever” and I force my mind elsewhere. I busy myself fiddling with the stitching on my shirt. I check out the A, B, C’s on the carpet. Run through my to-do list in my head. Anything to keep my mind off this story and where it’s taking me.
“I’ll love you forever / I’ll like you for always / As long as I’m living / My baby you’ll be.” (Munsch, 1986)
The message is sweet, poignant and powerful. Why, oh why, is Ms. M. doing this to me? She is getting closer to the end of the story. I accidentally caught a glimpse of the aging mom rocking her adult son as Ms. M. flashed the book around the classroom. Can I make it to the end without crying? Nope. My attempts at distraction were futile. The mom in the story has just made the phone call to her son letting him know she is very old and sick so he goes to see her.
There in the middle of the classroom I’m overcome with emotion. And seemingly the only one. Perhaps not, but I don’t dare glance around the classroom to do a status-check and I’m hoping that others aren’t either. As Ms. M. speaks the last words from the book, my kids pop up and run over to me noticing my tears.
From some distance, Madison says (does she scream it across a football field? No, it just feels like it), “Mommy, why are you crying?” Jameson shimmies up beside me, throws his arm around me and pats my back in the sweetest show of compassion.
“I’ll love you forever / I’ll like you for always / As long as I’m living / My Mommy you’ll be.” (Munsch, 1986)
With the tear or two that sprung as a result of the story still fresh on my cheek, I’m in serious danger of more tears now. These are the occassions when the child learns the act of compassion and empathy and is able to project it on his and her mama in her moment of weakness. Munsch’s circle of love message and the role reversal of the child taking care of his parent is a sweet and comforting one, and it just played out for me in the classroom. My tear-stained cheek was no longer slightly pink from embarrassment, it was flushed with pride.
I’ll love you forever.