I’m wrestling with some big feelings. I got a birth announcement this week from someone I didn’t know what pregnant. I’m struggling with a lot of feelings around that.
- Because this is her third child. Her oldest is nearly 4. I don’t pretend that three young children isn’t a lot of work. I’m grateful that her children are healthy and that she is doing fine. But, can I tell you that I’m a little jealous of her. No miscarriages, no infertility. Just healthy children. I don’t wish ill on her. I don’t cast an evil eye upon her. I’m not jealous in the “I want to steal what you have away from you,” way. I’m jealous in the “why can’t I have that,” kind of of way. The sad way.
- I.Didn’t.Know. That means no one who knows me, from the mother and father, grandparents, all the way though every fucking one of our mutual friends, family, and acquaintances, and lo, there are many; bothered to mention at any time during the last…call it 8 months or so, that she was pregnant. I know some of that is down to COVID and a lot less face time, but…but… There are very few things as isolating as realizing that people are living entire lives that you’re unaware of. My heart wants to be charitable, but I feel isolated and lonely. I feel completely separated from friends and family and nothing brings that home quite like “I’ve been growing a child for months and you have no clue.”
- Adding to the stark contrast, while she was in the hospital recovering from birth, I was doing a home sleep study. We both were probably hooked up to wires and monitors, and my mind could imagine every moment of hers while experiencing every moment of mine. And I would much rather be recovering from birth than waking up in the middle of the night to change batteries because those dimwits don’t use high test batteries. (and let me just say, for devices with high power consumption, like my favorite underwater camera and apparently, this sleep monitor, it doesn’t pay to skimp on the batteries. Pay the premium for the Optimum or the Max or whatever you have to, because then you can get 2 whole nights of them, instead of 5 hours. (or in the case of my camera, 25 minutes.))
Unlike most of the people who are complaining about how cancel culture is banning Dr Seuss, I’ve actually read some of the books whose printing is being discontinued. I don’t know why the estate made the choice to not update the images rather than discontinue printing. I’m not going to assume I know anything better than they do. “If I Ran the Zoo” and “And to think that I saw on Mulberry Street,” are old favorites of mine, but I didn’t read them to my child. I read “The Sneeches and Other Stories,” and many, many rereadings of the Horton books. I read Hop on Pop and the Cat in the Hat. I “1 Fish, 2 Fish…” When she got older, I read her some of his funnier essays like “The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough.” But I’ve kept her away from the Flit ads, from his political commentaries, especially the early ones, and I supported Mo Willems and the children’s artists of MA when they asked the Dr. Seuss museum to remove the mural in 2017. (https://www.masslive.com/news/2017/10/mo_willems_dr_seuss.html) The idea that Mo Willems would be antiSeuss only makes sense to anyone who has never met him or never read anything he wrote. His obvious admiration and respect for Dr. Seuss as a trailblazer of the genre is apparent in every line of his work. The older Dr. Seuss works are inappropriate for young children. I’m not breaking any new ground saying this. Interestingly, I’ve yet to engage with anyone who is supporting these books who has also read them. The people who have engaged with me on the subject want to make the claim liberals now hate The Lorax, (specifically called out in an argument with someone.) an ironic twist, given how I’m pretty sure these same people 10 years ago were saying they hated the Lorax (again specifically) because it was anticapitalism and brainwashing children. All the images and memes they share are of books like The Cat in the Hat, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas as if to remove old books is to say that the entire catalog of Seuss is being destroyed. I think my favorite part is where they take the position that liberals want to burn all Seuss books; this after conservatives spent years burning their Nikes because Colin Kapernick.
Literature and literary sensibilities change over time. Books, to my eternal dismay, go out of print all the time. One of my favorite juvenile fiction books, which I shall not name, because I feel like it would uniquely identify me to anyone who thinks they might know me, had a single printing, and despite being a joyful romp, will probably never be reprinted. At the time it was written it was, like the Wonder Woman of the 70s, extremely progressive, but in today’s society would seem horribly sexist and outmoded. I read it to my child, but of course, with commentary. The same way I do with many classics, like the Wizard of Oz books, The Secret Garden, Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web… And we talk about it. We talk about the portrayal of women in Baum, which is super problematic after the first book. Don’t believe me? What about in Marvelous Land of Oz (Book 2) when the Scarecrow asks the Queen of the Mice for like 12 field mice which he releases in the throne room and scares all the girls of JinJur’s army away, because girls are scared of mice, you know. And how the girls were actually really grateful that the girl army was defeated because men can’t cook and their food was awful and governing is hard. And I know that you can follow that up with well, Ozma becomes the ruler and she is a girl. I have no objections to Ozma, but sometimes it seems like she’s less a ruler and more of a sweet, pretty, young girl who is victorious only because she is sweet. Not as much because she is clever and fair minded. (Although she is those things, it’s just that no one ever really notices or talks about it as much as they do about how much she is sweet and beautiful.)
It’s much harder to talk about the Dr. Seuss books in the same way. If my child doesn’t notice the stereotyping, then I don’t want to call attention to it, but if I don’t call attention to it, what might the child observe that that I’m not talking about that becomes normal or acceptable to copy or internalize?
But there are so many books that just don’t make sense anymore. Particularly picture books. We like to think books are timeless, but they’re not. Some books just don’t age well. Many have dropped off the radar entirely and that’s okay. And for the ones that haven’t vanished entirely yet, it makes sense not to expose children to them until you can discuss them.