Sunday, March 4, 2012

Love You Forever

Love You Forever is one of the most touching books I have ever read.  It made me cry even before I had children and pulled at my heart in ways I didn't know was possible once I had.
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
The beautiful message in this book is the reason it has sold over 15 million copies since it was published in 1986.  If you're not familiar with the story, the mother sings the above song to her son as he grows through the years. From the difficult two year old who flushes things down the toilet, to the wild teenager, and then even as a grown man, the mother sings to her son while she rocks him in his sleep without him even knowing. She loves him, unconditionally. In the end, the mother grows old and ill, and she is no longer able to hold him and sing. So the son lifts his sick old mother in his arms and sings to her. Then he goes home and sings to his sleeping baby.

I'll love you forever.  This was the quote paired with the photo below when I first saw it and it couldn't be more fitting.

I'll love you forever.  Powerful words with a powerful photo.

So many things run through my head when I stare at this photo.  I wanted to know more about them.  Who was this man?  How long had he cared for and carried his mother?  I searched, but I couldn't find the story that this photo had originated from.  All I could find was a reference someone made about an article that said this photo was of a man taking care of his mother while they waited in the waiting room of a hospital in southern Taiwan.  But it really didn't matter, the photo said all I needed to know.  I'll love you forever.

Not all love looks the same, but I see love in this photo.  We all love in our own way.  I don't sing this song to my kids, but I love them forever when I carry them.  When I wear them on my body, letting them see they are still a part of me.  That I am always there for them.  I love them with my words.  With my kisses and hugs.  When I sleep with them.  When we snuggle.  Nurse.   Read.   Play.   Smile.   Cry.  With discipline, not punishment.  With my respect for who they are.  Respect for their anger.  Fear.  Expression.  Making sure their emotionally needs are taken as seriously as their physical needs.

I don't know what kind of mother this woman was or what kind of home this man grew up in.  Maybe he only cares for his mother out of obligation.  But I choose to believe it is devotion, not duty, that motivates his actions.  That it's love that compels him to carry his mother in a sling.  The child carrying the parent, returning the unconditional love he has been given.  I see love in this photo and a man that cradled his mother in his arms and rocked her back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And he sang this song:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my Mommy you'll be.
I'll love you forever.  It isn't always easy.   My kids drive me crazy more often than I'd like to admit. I'm sure they are going to challenge me in all kinds of ways as we experience growing pains together. No, it's not going to always be easy.  I can't imagine it's easy for that man.  But even if it's sometimes hard, even if sometimes I don't like the choices they are making or path they are on, I know I will always be there.  I will do my best to stand with them when they need a friend, behind them when they need support, in front of them if they force me to and even carry them when they need me to.

I'll love you forever. This is how I hope to parent. This is how I want to love.

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