I know you know I love you.
Your mama does too.
But do you really understand what we mean when we say “I love you”?
Do you know that we’d play hide-and-seek with a lion for you?
That we’d put spaghetti on our heads and pretend it was our hair?
That we’d dive into a pool of shark-infested orange juice?
That we’d dangle from an enormous building? Step in front of a train?
Or give away everything we have, just to make sure you’re safe?
I know it’s confusing, because we (people) say “I love you” so many different times. There’s love for friends, or ice cream, or cats, or cities, or mountains.
Those “loves” usually mean “I really really really really really really really like you, or ice cream.”
But our love is bigger than “like.” No matter how many “really’s” you put in there.
And when I think about you saying that you love me, I smile.
I smile so much it hurts my cheeks.
I love your mother as I love you. More than anything (but you (and the incredibly lucky person you will one day meet)).
One day, someone will say they Anything Love you and you will feel like you just took the best bite of cake you have ever had.
On that day, you will understand, more than you do now, what my love for you is like.
But the Anything Love you will feel that day will be even more special.
Your mother and my Anything Love feeds you and tucks you in and cleans the snot from our faces when you sneeze at us and reads to you and dances with you and is there for you forever.
But this new person, this new Anything Love, will feel like someone told you the biggest secret in the world. You will not be able to stop thinking of that secret. It will beat in your head just like your heart beats in your body, keeping you alive.
I cannot wait for this. I cannot wait to stretch my Anything Love to wrap around your Anything Love, whatever they look or sound like or wherever they come from.
You do strange things when you’re in Anything Love. You buy weird presents. You dress differently. You might even learn how to dance.
And if you get hurt by your Anything Love, you might do the strangest thing of all — nothing. Sometimes that’s good, and helps you be better teammates for three-legged races.
Sometimes that’s bad, because it’s not OK to be hurt by someone if they mean to hurt you, with their words or their own strength.
If someone, anyone, ever hurts you, I MIGHT just grow wings and fangs and claws and chase them down.
Or, more likely, your mom and I will be there to hold you afterward.
So spend your day liking and loving and laughing and knowing that I am here, thinking about you, and waiting for the day you come home to tell me that you Anything Love someone.
And until then, boys, my sons.… After you fall asleep, I’ll come in to check on you. I’ll put another blanket on you and smile. My face hurts, I’m smiling so much.
Seth Fishman is the author of two picture books, the award-winning A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars and the forthcoming Power Up, both illustrated by Isabel Greenberg. He is a literary agent at The Gernert Company and lives in L.A. with his wife and son and his other son (forthcoming).