I bought this book for Justin way back in 1997 as a Valentine’s Day present. Today, reading it to London, I thought about why I gave it. For one, giving Justin a kids’ book, even back then, hinted of a future in which we were happily married with kids. That kind of hint seemed exciting and risky to 15-year-old me. For another, Justin and I (like so many people in love) would often try to out-love each other. Who loved the other more was a game, a playful way to declare your own feelings while also testing out the depth of what someone else felt for you. You always hoped the other person won.
In Guess How Much I Love You Little Nut Brown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare proclaim their love for one another, Big Nutbrown Hare outdoing Little Nutbrown Hare at every turn. It’s beautiful how hard Little Nutbrown tries to express a bigger love than Big Nutbrown’s, and it’s interesting that he can’t—not because he’s not as good at expressing love or because he loves any less intensely. He loves as much as he is able. Big Nutbrown Hare is simply more able.
Look at these interchanges from the book:
"I love you as high as I can reach," said Little Nutbrown Hare.
"I love you as high as I can reach,” said Big Nutbrown Hare.
"I love you as high as I can hop," laughed Little Nutbrown Hare.
"But I love you as high as I can hop,” smiled Big Nutbrown Hare.
Seems simple, but I love this story because it points out that how much you love isn’t nearly as important as how completely you love. Each of the hares in this book loves the other just as much as he can. One is bigger than the other, and because he’s bigger, his love is bigger.
It’s almost like the Spiderman line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The more you can love, the more you should love.
I like, too, that Big Nutbrown Hare isn’t sad that Little Nutbrown Hare can’t love him as largely. The problem with being a very good lover is that we often expect more from others than they’re capable of giving. Big Nutbrown Hare enjoys Little Nutbrown’s expressions of love despite their being so small by comparison.
It’s easy to get frustrated as a parent, because so often you find yourself loving more than you’re loved back. London loves me as much as she can; I’m certain. But she just isn’t big enough to love, well, big. She’s selfish a lot. She hardly ever thinks about what I might like or want. She does things that drive me crazy, sometimes intentionally to drive me crazy. But then she’ll look at me from across the room, smile, and say, “Hi, Mama. Hi.” or she’ll put her arms around my neck and kiss my face until it’s wet or she’ll give me a bite of her Krispy Kreme doughnut—and I’ll know that she’s loving me as completely as she’s able.
That’s all I can ask for and all I want.