Jia was having a hard time sleeping because she had a nap after school today. So instead of forcing her to sleep which I know will only result to never-ending refrains of “But, Mom, I CAN’T sleep!!!” I told her I would read her one more story but she had to promise to sleep right after. She agreed and I could see that she was excitedly thinking of which story to request for. I gently cut her off and said I’ll be the one to choose the story. She was surprised but also excited to see what book I was going to get.
When I returned to her bed with the book, she read the title, ‘Mama, how much do you love me?’, and asked me what it was about. It was a “new” book since I just got it from Booksale yesterday. I got it from the bottom shelf. I wasn’t familiar with the book but I was really grateful that I saw it. I loved it the story and I loved the rich illustrations and I was looking forward to reading it to Jia and Joya.
I explained to Jia that the book was about an Innuit (“I like to go and play in the snow in winter, Mom!”) mom and daughter.
“An ate?” she asked.
“No, she has no baby brother so she is not an ate. It is just about her and her mom.”
I told her to settle in so we could read together. She did but not before telling me to change the title to ‘Mommy, do you love me.’ “You’re mommy, not mama,” she reasoned. 🙂
MAMA, DO YOU LOVE ME?
Written by Barbara M. Joosse
Illustrated by Barbara Lavallee
Published by Chronicle Books 1991
Mama, do you love me?
Yes I do, Dear One.
I love you more than the raven loves his treasure, more than the dog loves his tail, more than the whale loves his spout.
I’ll love you until the umiak flies into the darkness, till the stars turn to fish in the sky, and the puffin howls at the moon.
Then I would be angry.
What if I threw water at our lamp?
Then, Dear One, I would be very angry. But still, I would love you.
What if I ran away?
Then, Dear One, I would be very sad.
But still, I would love you.
What if I turned into a musk-ox?
Then I would be surprised.
What if I turned into a walrus?
Then I would be surprised and a little scared.
What if I turned into a polar bear, and I was the meanest bear you ever saw and I had sharp, shiny teeth, and I chased you into your tent and you cried?
Then I would be very surprised and very scared. But still, inside the bear, you would be you, and I would love you.
I will love you, forever and for always, because you are my Dear One.
Jia loved the story as much as I did. In the part where the daughter was asking about running away, Jia asked me if I love her even when she goes away.
“Yes” I replied.
“But I don’t go out by myself, Mom. I’m just here. I don’t leave. I just go here and here,” referring to part of the house.
I smiled. That was her way of telling me that I should not be scared because she will not leave me.
When I finished the story we talked about how much I love her. I asked her if she knew why we love her.
“Because I’m a good ate.”
“Because I’m a good person.”
“No, we love you because you’re our child. And even if you forget to be a good person, we still love you. Daddy and mommy really love you, Jia.”
She smiled and I knew she understood. I remember about a month ago when she did something “bad” (‘bad’ in quotes because her bad things are not really bad) so I was scolding her. In the middle of my litanya, she interrupted me and while smiling, asked, “Mom, we still love each other, right?” So, of course I calmed down and assured her that yes, I still love her.
I love Jia. And I am amazed that we can talk profoundly (using the term loosely here) about things that matter.
After talking about the book she confided with me that sometimes she doesn’t want to play with Joya because Joya doesn’t understand her when she says not to disturb her. “I tell him, ‘Joya, don’t disturb Ate’ but he still disturbs me, Mom.” We talked about how she feels when Joya does that or when Joya breaks her blocks castle or when Joya folds pages of her books. She ended our conversation with “I love my baby brother, Mom.” and then turned her back to me so she can sleep while I was hugging her from behind. I kissed her and hugged her good night and then Joya suddenly woke up.
“Can I just feed Joya, Ate? He wants milk.”
I went to the big bed where Joya was and nursed him. After a couple of minutes, I looked at Jia and she was already fast asleep.