“Guess How Much I Love You,” by Sam McBratney, is a tale about the bonds of love between parent and child. It’s a beautiful exposition of how we perceive that love and its grandeur. That love seems limitless to us and we can hardly express it.
But mostly it’s about how awesome we are as parents.
We all love “Guess How Much I Love You” because it describes the golden age of parenting, or, in other words, the time in which we are bigger, better, stronger, and smarter than our kids.
The story details an evening conversation between Little Nutbrown Hare and his dad (uncle, grandfather, father-figure… we’re assuming here), Big Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare has just realized how enormous his capacity to love really is and is totally stoked to share that with Big Nutbrown Hare. So he makes himself vulnerable by asking his parent to “guess how much [Little Nutbrown Hare] loves him.” Little Nutbrown Hare then stretches out his arms to their full extent and declares this distance to be that of his love for Big Nutbrown Hare. And what does Big Nutbrown Hare say?
Well, of course, Big Nutbrown Hare stretches his arms out as far as they can go and declares the same thing. Only Big Nutbrown Hare’s arms are much longer than Little Nutbrown Hare’s because as you grow up your wingspan increases. That’s an important side lesson.
Anyway, the point is, we are bigger than our kids and that’s awesome.
Little Nutbrown Hare rebuts with the fact that he loves his parent/guardian (?) “as high as [he] can reach.” Oh, Little Nutbrown Hare… so much to learn. Again, Big Nutbrown Hare is able to prove his bigness pretty easily, because when you’re bigger than someone else it’s usually pretty much all-encompassing. As parents we love this rule because we are able to show off our bigness often and in many different ways.
Little Nutbrown Hare comes up with a new idea which he is sure will make him the victor in this whole who-loves-who-more game. He stands on his hands and leans his feet up against a tree, saying that he loves Big Nutbrown Hare “all the way up to [his] toes.”
But Big Nutbrown Hare comes in with the curveball here by swinging his son into the air and saying that he loves Little Nutbrown Hare all the way to his toes (which is a greater distance now that the rabbit is elongated thusly.
We parents have lifting abilities that need to be flaunted whenever possible.
So Little Nutbrown Hare is left feeling somewhat Nutbrown bummed and wishing he hadn’t even brought this love thing up in the first place.
He decides to use his athleticism to try and gain some ground here, so he claims he loves Big Nutbrown Hare “as high as he can hop.” But, as predicted, Big Nutbrown Hare demonstrates his remarkable hopping skills and has us all beaming with pride.
Little Nutbrown Hare, at this point crying out (some may say out of excitement, but I wager it’s just because he’s overcome with rage), says that he loves Big Nutbrown Hare all the way out to a river that happens to be visible to him in that moment. Big Nutbrown Hare can see farther because when you are taller it’s easier to see over things like trees and rivers. Another important side lesson.
(We all love this part because we are reminded of how much better we are than our kids at most stuff.)
Meanwhile Little Nutbrown Hare just wishes Big Nutbrown Hare would shut his Big Nutbrown mouth.
Finally, Little Nutbrown, using his last ounce of willpower, rather inquisitively considers just the sheer hugeness of the sky above. He whispers that he loves Big Nutbrown Hare “right up to the moon.” Big Nutbrown Hare just can’t let it go — just cannot lose this game — so he administers the line we all remember most from this book, “I love you right up to the moon and back.”
We cherish this moment as a perfectly natural one, where parents claim their place of superiority over their kids and all is right with the world.
But at this point, Little Nutbrown Hare is fast asleep, having given up on this stupid game entirely. And that’s when we realize that, not only is it super cool to flaunt our awesomeness to our kids, it’s also a really great way to piss them off into a slumber.
Way to go, parents. Keep being badasses.