How do you tell your child "I love you?" Do you borrow someone else's flowery, poetic language day by day? Or is it through the ordinary but special things you do with your child on a regular basis? There is an abundance of books based on the former, a parent's tender love song to his or her child that has been illustrated and published. Some, a very few, are even nicely done. Others make Betsy and me gag (but we won't mention specifics except in private conversation).
Three good examples of Story built around this theme (and which are subtle as opposed to sentimental) come to mind: Where the Wild Things Are, Runaway Bunny and Moon Sandwich Mom. Promising the child that "I'll always be here, always feed you, always love you," these mothers SHOW rather than TELL their love. In Wild Things, the unseen mother is understandably exasperated with her son's behavior and sends him to his room without supper, but when he returns from his adventure, his supper is waiting for him "and it was still hot." You might notice that there's even dessert--what a loving mama!
I like Moon Sandwich Mom because each mother has her own strength and weakness and is loved by her children, but none can substitute for Rafferty's mom. And even though he leaves because she is too busy being creative to play with him, he misses their own unique fun relationship; when he returns, she helps him be creative, too. Rafferty's friends' mothers (how's that for apostrophe and plural use?!) also enjoy their children and their children are happy, so there is no implication that one is better than another.
Runaway Bunny is a classic for good reason. Toddlers and preschoolers are constantly testing boundaries, making sure the rules are the same as they were five minutes ago! Runaway Bunny is full of that gentle reassurance that Mom is there, always loving. And yes, at the end, they enjoy carrots together, so it's both nurturing and nourishing.
The important thread in these three books (and in others) is the relationship between three very different children and their mothers. Are you the perfect parent for your children? Not perfect, but chosen by God to enjoy a relationship with them!