Monday, September 8, 2008

The Cat Gives Me Hives

It’s not that I have a problem with Dr. Seuss. Really, I’m a huge fan. I can quote pages from dozens of his delightful books. I just have an issue with The Cat.

My husband adores The Cat. He is, as a man who (on principle) does not read, fluent in The Cat. The Cat is, as far as I am aware, my husband’s only Machiavellian indulgence. If you ask him to tell you the story of The Cat, he’ll cheerfully describe a boring day saved by a mysterious visitor full of harmless pranks and tricks who puts everything right in the end and makes the world delicious.

My take is different.

Very likely my view is clouded my motherhood. Maybe The Cat gives me hives as I look at it through Mommy eyes. I invite you inside my head to see it my way.

Mom runs an errand and leaves kids home bored. Bad weather prevents playing outside (remember playing outside?) and with a logical leap into the 21st century, maybe the power’s out, so no Wii. Suddenly a strange man appears and forcibly enters the home. Clearly uncomfortable, the kids try to get him to leave. He refuses and begins to systematically break all house rules, overriding each objection from both children and Conscience figure. Again with the go-now requests, this time brushed off by the arrival of more uninvited guests. Havoc ensues in every room. The chaos is at fever pitch when, oh, my! Mom’s coming home. Deftly (as though through years of practice) he erases all traces of his misdeeds and then (wait for it) convinces the kids to LIE ABOUT IT.

How any mother reads this story without a shudder, I cannot fathom. But despite the flood of more suitable and far more clever “learn-to-read” books now on the market, we continue to buy and at least some of us, to read “The Cat in the Hat” until we could achieve self-induced hypnosis or nirvana by simply chanting, “Look at me, look at me, look at me now! It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how!”

As I type, my four-year-old stands at my elbow, waiting with the patience of a tiny Buddah, holding a stack of books. Spying the telltale blue binding, I can resist even the sigh that is building inside me. I know that within the next five minutes, I will be in my favorite place, indulging my favorite earthly pleasure that does not involve butter. With my boy in my lap, I will read each page of that story. I will read with expression, with drama. I will make him laugh, and he will lean his warm head back so his cheek brushes mine. He will hold my fingers until it’s time for him to turn a page, and I will wait with some semblance of patience to hear my favorite words at story time, “Thanks, Mommy.”

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