I’ve just signed up to bring treats to my daughter’s class for Valentine’s Day, and am mulling over the depressing instructions in BOLD on the top of the page: “no nuts, everything store-bought and in its original packaging.” No homemade rice-krispie treats with red sugar and heart sprinkles, no beautiful cupcakes with a fluffy dollop of from-scratch buttercream frosting? I realize, however, that the treats are not the point of Valentine’s Day, and as we head toward the car, I think this may be a good teaching moment.
“Did you know Valentine’s Day is in February? Do you remember what Valentine’s Day is?” I ask my five-year old. “Sure,” she shrugs. “It’s about hearts. Can we make some hearts?” I am familiar with her stream-of-consciousness responses, so I steer back to the topic at hand. “Well, yes. It’s about hearts. But do you know why we celebrate Valentine’s?” “LOVE!” she shouts enthusiastically. “We celebrate our love.” “That’s right!” I say proudly. “We celebrate the love we have for others, like our family. Like the way Daddy and I love you.”
“How do you know someone loves you?” she asks.
“Well, one of the ways Daddy shows his love for you is by getting up really early every morning–even when he doesn’t want to–to go to work so he can take care of you.”
My daughter is silent for a moment, thinking about this. “Or like the way Adam loves me. You know, because he shares his dinosaurs with me, and we play dinosaurs together a lot. He’s really fun.”
It’s true. It’s much easier for a younger child to see love in concrete, tangible ways, like when a friend shares a favorite toy, or when I let my two-year old lick the beaters (“You’re my best friend, Mama,” she told me last week, after one such occasion). But it’s those intangible, seemingly mundane, daily tasks that slowly, but indelibly, etch our love on the hearts of those we care for. I don’t expect my five-year old to notice these things–and there are some things she simply can’t understand until she becomes a caretaker. Last week, after she had contracted a stomach bug in the middle of the night, I looked up from scrubbing the carpet to see my husband carefully washing her sheets out in the tub. We looked at each other and laughed out loud, “Wow, this is love.”
We don’t want or expect thanks for this, but simply want our little girl to feel–and expect–that invisible safety net of love.
February’s featured title, Bunny, My Honey, by Anita Jeram, is the tender, simply told tale of a mother’s unconditional love for her little one. Mother Rabbit teaches Bunny all those important rabbity things, like running and hopping, digging and twitching, and the right way to thump his great, big feet. Bunny plays with his two best friends, Miss Mouse and Little Duckling, and if a game ends in tears, “as games sometimes do,” Mommy Rabbit is there to comfort and cuddle.
But when Bunny becomes lost deep in the woods one day, he suddenly realizes just how much he needs his mommy. Mommy Rabbit isn’t long in finding Bunny, and they are joyfully reunited: she presses her nose to his and reminds him of her love.
You or your reader may recognize Ms. Jeram’s adorable watercolor illustrations from the popular Guess How Much I Love You? or All Together Now. When you BookChat, ask little ones if they can spot the concerned-looking owl or the tiny snail that is hidden among the leaves on some of the pages. Use the story’s comforting message–”I’ll always be there for you”–to reassure a toddler who fears the dark, or discuss with an older reader the ever-important subject of what to do if he is ever lost.
Special thanks to Candlewick Press for making Bunny, My Honey available to you and your honey bunny to read for free during the month of February.
Happy Valentine’s Day and happy reading,