In every parent-child relationship there are sayings that you adopt. Most of them come from books, movies or family traditions. They are not only a way to teach a child how to speak, but they bond us together with our children in a secret membership, if you will, of a very exclusive club.
When my oldest daughter, now six, was a young child we often read the book "Guess How Much I Love You" by Sam McBratney. For anyone not familiar with the book, the plot involves a father rabbit and a baby rabbit trying to prove their love for one another by expressing it with grandiose gestures and words. Each page, the characters try to one-up the other with their declarations of love. At the very end the father rabbit says to the sleeping boy rabbit, "I love you right up to the moon and back."
By default, my youngest daughter inherited the book. I started reading it to her just when she was beginning to say "I love you." Not unlike the way she learned to say her bedtime prayer, always including the Hurricane Katrina victims, she now believes all I love you's must be accompanied by a "to the moon and back." She will be three in May and she has actually dropped the "I love you." Instead, she comes up and hugs my knees and exclaims, "Moon and back!" If I leave her room at night without saying it, I hear her little high-pitched voice call out to me in the darkness, "Moon and back!"
"I love you" are the words most of us want to hear from the people closest to us in our lives -- our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends. But somehow the words "moon and back" have taken on a new meaning, a weight in my life that I could never have imagined.
And just last week she expanded her repertoire. Sometimes she skips a beat, turns away, takes a step and then looks back at me and adds, "Promise."
I in turn promise to love her to the moon and back. And that's one promise I know I can keep.
Amanda lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.