Perspective defines so many things… like your enjoyment of children’s books

Last night the Beans were reading to me and I was struck by something very interesting.  Both JujuBean and ButterBean picked Dr. Seuss books.  However the reaction I have to both of the books is very interesting.  In general, I LOVE Dr. Seuss.  Nearly everything the man has written is inspired and helps build reading skills in kids.  And yet, even with my love affair with Seuss, there os one of his works I can’t stand.  Don’t like it.  Never have.  Last night, as ButterBean was reading it to me, I figured it out.  Funny but often it takes time and distance to gain perspective.

The only Dr. Seuss story I don’t like is Cat in the Hat.  Yes, I know, it defines who and what Seuss is.  It’s catchy and easy to read.  It’s engaging.  And I hate it.  Always have.  So, as ButterBean was reading it to me last night, I got it.  I knew exactly why I don’t like.  It crystallized in one simple moment.  I suddenly got the feelings I had when being read this story the very first time.  And it is the basis of my dislike.  So, now for the back story…

As a kid, I had an older brother.  Well, round about the time I was maybe 6 months old, my dad remarried.  In the deal, I got an even bigger stepsister.  In general she was a very nice girl.  But, between her and my brother, I often got railroaded into untenable situations and even spanked.  As an example, as a child, I couldn’t eat a whole hot dog in a bun.  I could manage maybe half, but I didn’t have the biggest appetite (wish that were true now).  I would be left sitting at the table until I could finish it.  Mind you, I couldn’t eat the thing, so I’d sit at that table for hours.  My stepsister and  brother offered me salvation one day.  They’d take care of the hot dog.  I imagined one of them would eat the darn thing.  Unfortunately, “taking care of it” meant sticking it in the linen closet between towels…  That would be the first railroaded spanking.

Last night, as ButterBean read the Cat in the Hat, I realized that the first time it was read to me, I identified with the little boy.  He thinks that someone is offering him something that is not too bad.  It could be fun.  He isn’t totally sure, but kind of goes along and things get out of hand.  Finally, he realizes that his mother is nearly home and kicks out the Cat.  But, there is the huge, all-encompassing mess.  He will be in huge trouble.  Are you catching the train of my thought here.  Imagine me, as a 4 or 5 year old, hearing this story, seeing that this little boy had lots of others create a huge mess and then be abandoned to face Mom’s wrath alone.  The fact that the cat comes back didn’t overcome it for me.  In that moment, I felt like I was that little boy.  I felt that sinking feeling of a spanking coming.  I felt like he was going to be punished for a situation that wasn’t altogether his fault.  Basically, I felt with him.  Empathy pure and simple.  I felt with him.  And I hated the book.  From that moment on, I’ve had an aversion to the book.  And until last night, I had no idea why.

Contrast that with one of my favorite Seuss books, Green Eggs and Ham.  As a ridiculously picky eater, I loved this story.  You’d think I wouldn’t since it outright stated I should try new foods, but I loved it.  Imagine my joy when, in high school, Saturday Night Live showed their brilliance (of which I was not always convinced) by honoring Dr. Seuss with a reading of this.  The reading was done by none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  While the man is often a blowhard, he can make anything (and I do mean anything) sound like a sermon.  If you didn’t catch this one, grab a listen to it here.  It is beyond worth the listen.  (I would have embedded it, but the poster in YouTube doesn’t allow it, sigh.)  Keep your attention ready for the fist pound near the end.  This is priceless.  And it kind of highlights the extremes of my childhood.  At Mom’s house, she tried Green Eggs and Ham-style coercion to get me to try new things (one spoonful of anything on the table and then you were free – house rule).  At Dad’s house, eat everything I serve you or you will sit there until you do (no difference between serving sizes based on children’s age or size).  And to this day, I love one book and can’t stand the other.  Funny how perspective is shaped by unremembered incidents of childhood…

Happy Melodrama!





4 thoughts on “Perspective defines so many things… like your enjoyment of children’s books

  1. You crack me up! My fave? Fox in socks. Hands down my favorite book to read to my kids. Have you heard the one about tweetle beetles? Um Tulip

    • Tweetle beetles is vaguely familiar, which means it’s been too long ;). My favorite to read is Do You Know How Lucky You Are? Those funny bee watchers who didn’t watch well… they’re watching on watch-watcher-watchering watch…

  2. WOW! It was impressive that you remembered that after so long. And it really is amazing how it takes just a litttle something to jog that remembering. It was fascinating to me to find out the situation around your remembering. Thanks for sharing!

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