Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney, is a book that has been read and enjoyed by many families, including ours. The story is about Little Nutbrown Hare, who asks Big Nutbrown Hare a simple and sweet question: “Guess how much I love you.” Clearly, this question is asked not to get an answer from Big Nutbrown Hare, but simply to give Little Nutbrown Hare a chance to explain the depths of his feelings. He stretches out his arms as far as he can, saying “This much.”
Big Nutbrown Hare responds by saying “That is a lot” – and he could have stopped there, giving Little Nutbrown Hare credit for expressing his love. But he doesn’t. He stretches out his own arms, which clearly stretch further because . . . he’s bigger, and says, “But I love you this much.”
If only he had used the word “and” instead of “but!” Then they would simply have made joint declarations of love. Using the word “but,” however, turned it into a competition. A competition that Little Nutbrown was destined to lose. For the rest of the book, Little Nutbrown continues trying to demonstrate how much he loves Big Nutbrown. He does handstands, hops, and even uses geography, but every time, Big Nutbrown unmercifully one-ups him. Finally, tired from the emotional beatdown he’s been dealt, he lies down. He makes one more quiet attempt as he falls asleep, saying “I love you right up to the moon.” He closes his eyes, and Big Nutbrown Hare kisses him good night – then whispers, “I love you right up to the moon . . . and back.”
So the story concludes with Big Nutbrown Hare “winning” against Little Nutbrown Hare, who never really knew the game. Good for you, Big Nutbrown. But why? Would it have hurt to let him have a little victory? Why did Big Nutbrown feel the need to one-up a child, perhaps his child, at every chance he got? Here are two possible reasons:
1. He has a severe inferiority complex and looks for other hares he can “beat” to make himself feel better.
2. He wants to show Little Nutbrown Hare that no matter how big his love is, it will never measure up – because Big Nutbrown Hare will always love him more. In fact, no matter how hard he works, or hops, it will never be good enough. He’ll always come up just a little short.
No matter the reason, Little Nutbrown Hare isn’t damaged beyond repair. Unless the next morning went something like this:
Big Nutbrown Hare woke up and stretched out his aching limbs, feeling mighty pleased with himself after winning the game of “Who Loves Who More” with Little Nutbrown Hare. He hopped out of his burrow to see Little Nutbrown Hare waiting for him. Little Nutbrown smiled when he saw him: “Look, I made us breakfast.”
Big Nutbrown Hare smiled. “That’s nice. But before going to bed last night, I called to have our breakfast catered by the best breakfast place in the world.”
Little Nutbrown Hare looked down sadly. Then he remembered. He pulled out a picture he had painted. He showed it to Big Nutbrown Hare. “I painted you a picture! It’s of the two of us.”
“That’s very nice,” Big Nutbrown Hare said. “Though I’m not sure I really look like that. Did you know that when I was your age, I was called the Monet of Hares?”
Little Nutbrown Hare grew sadder. “I didn’t know that.” He sat down but then remembered he had one more thing for Big Nutbrown Hare. And Big Nutbrown would appreciate this one, instead of continuing to crush his self-esteem. He reached into his bag and pulled out a pot holder. “Look, I crocheted a pot holder for you. I know it’s not that good, but I got up at 2 in the morning and taught myself so that I could make it for you.”
Big Nutbrown Hare took the potholder and held it. “This is really good.” Big Nutbrown Hare paused for a moment and Little Nutbrown Hare thought he had finally done it. But no: “Let me show you what I crocheted for you last night after I saw you working on crocheting something for me.” Little Nutbrown Hare’s shoulders slumped as he followed Big Nutbrown Hare into the burrow. “Now, close your eyes.” He did. “You can open them now.”
Little Nutbrown opened his eyes and stared in shock.
“I crocheted you an entire room!”
Little Nutbrown Hare collapsed and began crying. Big Nutbrown Hare looked down at him, thought for a moment about what was happening, and then sat down beside him.
“You think those tears are impressive? Watch this!”
And naturally, his tears were far more impressive. Big Nutbrown Hare had won again.
In conclusion: If the epilogue I imagined had actually happened. Little Nutbrown Hare clearly would have run away and entered a terrible life, getting high on parsley and living on the mean hare streets.
And if that did happen, Big Nutbrown Hare could always say, “At least I loved him more.”
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