Monday, November 19, 2012

Dr. Seuss: Scaring The Shit Out of Children Since 1937

One of my greatest accomplishments as a mother. . .*

*After teaching my short people the words to Blackstreet's "No Diggity" and how to make a prisonyard shiv out of a toothbrush and a sharp rock

. . .is instilling in my twin boys a voracious love for reading.  I'd like to think that having children who eschew eReaders and whose fecund hearts swell with glee at the thought of a day spent poring over tomes at the local bookstore almost makes up for hemming their pants with duct tape and letting them wear their school clothes to bed so I can sleep in an extra half hour in the morning.*

*Don't be judgy.

From the time the boys were infants I spent countless hours reading to them; sharing my beloved childhood stories, and discovering new classics as well.  Many of them such as "The Poky Little Puppy" and the Winnie-the-Pooh series continue to warm the cockles of my otherwise blackened and withered heart, but there are some that I read that made me wonder what level of Ira Levin-esque psychosis spawned such madness.  If you are a parent, I can guarantee you own at least one of these books.  And if you are a child being exposed to said books, be very, very afraid.


Let me preface by stating that I love me some Dr. Seuss.  I believe  that "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are" and "Green Eggs And Ham" were two of the finest works of literature ever put to pen and "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish"  is just one acid hit away from being a Lollapalooza-sized drug trip.*

*"Who am I? My name is Ish.  On my hand I have a dish. . .when I wish to make a wish, I wave my hand with a big 'swish-swish', then I say 'I wish for fish'. . .so, if you wish to wish a wish, you may swish for fish with my Ish Wish Dish."   That is some existential shit right there, yo.

 But the one story I can never read without an overwhelming sensation of "WhatThe@#$%!?!?"  is perhaps Dr. Seuss' most seminal work: "The Cat In The Hat".

And henceforth, hipster headwear was born.

Our story begins with a pair of siblings who appear to be no older than six or seven being left home alone while their mother disappears on an errand of dubious origin.*

*Which she does yet again in "The Cat In The Hat Comes Back".  I can only presume the mom is supporting a raging meth addiction by giving handjobs to truckers at the highway rest stop.

The kids appear to be managing things pretty responsibly, considering their age, but evidently they missed the whole "Stranger Danger" assembly at school because they were more than happy to open the door for a six foot tall cat wearing nothing more than a top hat and a Jerry Sandusky smile.

The cat assures them that "Shh, your mom won't mind" and as these children are both light-headed from subsisting on a diet of Cheerios and neglect and desperate for an adult role model, they happily give him the run of the house.  Unfortunately, things soon go south and, like a virulent case of the clap or a member of the Clinton Administration, this feline son of a bitch just won't leave. Finally the fish steps in to cockblock the cat and in the end the children are left to cover up for the pedophiliac feline under strict orders to "not tell mother".

So, in summation:  if a stranger tells you that "it's our little secret, so don't tell your Mommy" then that's OK, because Mommy's probably too jacked up on a cocktail of crank and trucker spunk to give a rat's ass anyway.  Sweet dreams!


Anyone else notice that little fucker is about to flush his mother's watch down the toilet?  No?  Just me?

"I'll Love You Forever" is a touching and beautiful book in theory.  It tells of a mother's lifelong love for her son and how, no matter what his age, he will always be her precious baby.  All together now:  "Aaawwww!"

The story starts with the boy as an infant and moves up through his early childhood years.  The little boy single-handedly dismantles the house, does enough property damage to make F.E.M.A. cringe, and drives his mother batshit crazy but every night when he is sleeping peacefully, all is forgiven.  She tiptoes into his room, holds him gently and sings him a sweet lullaby:

"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always.
As long as you're living
My baby you'll be."*

*Personally, I call bullshit.  Yes, we always LOVE our children, but kids can be real little assholes.  Any mother who claims that she always LIKES her children is either lying like a rug or heavily medicated, or both.  

Hyperbole aside, the story seems relatively innocuous thus far, right?  Well, "thus far" is the operative phrase here.  Our story continues with our boy entering his teen years where he celebrates the glory of his hormonal youth by masturbating to the J.C. Penney catalogue, smoking a doobie behind the garage, and apparently dressing like Rick Astley.

"Never gonna GIVE, never gonna GIVE...give you up!"

Most mothers would be justifiable repulsed by their sons at this age as they are little more than a giant Axe Body Spray scented hard-on with feet.  But not this mother!  Laws, no!  Of course, she respects her son's need for privacy so she does what any respectable matriarch would do.  She gets on all fours and crawls into her teenaged son's room at night before sneaking into bed with him, thus ensuring that all of his subsequent wet dreams will be accompanied by memories of the smell of his mother's Oil of Olay rejuvenating face wash.

"'Da FUQ!?!?"

While such behavior should inevitably lead our young lad to don a trenchcoat and head off to algebra class with a semi-automatic in his backpack, our hero manages to flee from this den of inequity and start a new life in a home of his own as an adult, safe from his mother's clutches.  Or, does he. . .?

Wait, no. . .is she. . .wha-whaWHAT!?!?


And the takeaway from all of this?  It's OK to love your children, you just shouldn't "LOVE" your children.  I am anxiously awaiting the sequel to this cautionary tale, which I can only imagine will look something like this:

 "Mother! Oh God, mother! Blood! Blood! "


Fuck that noise.

Mary, God, and the Baby Jeebus know there have been a kajillion children's books written about emotionally abusive relationships. . .

*Yeah, I'm lookin' at you, "Runaway Bunny" and "If You Give A Moose A Muffin"

But this book makes "What's Love Got to Do With It" look like the freaking "Princess Bride".  The basic premise of the story is this: a boy and a tree are friends.  As the boy grows, he strips the tree of everything she has while giving nothing in return, repeatedly deserts the tree for years at a time, returning only to take more shit away from her, and ultimately coming back to stick his ass in her face when she's down for the count.  To be honest, every time I read this book I keep looking for the torn out page that shows the kid pissing on the stump at the end.

Oh, and did I mention that he also liked to cut a bitch?  'Cuz. . .umm. . .yeah.

I am all about sacrificing for your children, but this co-dependent tree needs to set some fucking boundaries, yo.  The second that smarmy little bastard came back demanding money for strippers and blow I would have smacked him upside the head with my branch and said "Do you see the words ATM carved on my trunk, Bitch?"  and started hurling apples at his punk ass like Randy Johnson on Red Bull.

The last time I read this book to my short people, my son J. asked "Why is the boy so mean to the tree?"  And I explained to him, "Because the tree's a pussy, Honey".

Lesson learned?  Abuse me once, shame on you.  Abuse me twice, and it's gonna get REAL up in heah.


Am I the only one who thinks this book reads like a lengthy suicide note?  And perhaps they wouldn't have such an issue with mice if the senile old lady with the speech impediment wasn't leaving bowls of mush out all night.  I'm just sayin'. . .

Despite the fact that the majority of these books read like a Quentin Tarantino script, they were all written with the best of (misguided) intentions.  And remember, no matter how disturbing and skeevy most some children's books appear to be, do not stop reading to your children.  Giving them the gift of literacy and a love of the written word is the most precious gift you can bestow upon them; it is one that will serve them well throughout their lives.

But if they start creeping into your room at night trying to carve their initials into your flesh you have my permission to sue Shel Silverstein.  Good luck.



Jaclyn said...

I'm 6 years older than my youngest sister, so I remember always reading The Cat in the Hat to her. Like, 5 times a day for a couple of years kinda read that book. I can recite the first dozen or so pages from memory. Now that I've started reading it to Caitlyn ... yeah, I can't help but think that it sort of sends the wrong message about a lot of things. Strangers. Personal responsibility. The ability of a cake to bounce back from having a ship sunk into it. It's pretty fucking weird.

Tiffany said...

Oh, I have thought the same things!!! When I was a teenager, the preacher's wife read "I'll Love You Forever" as the children's minute on Mother's Day, and it creeped the mess out of me. One of the youth whispered "That's f'd up," in the church pew. I didn't see it again until I started dating my now-husband whose kid was 4. I took the book to him and told him it was creepy & weird and that the boy in the book needed to move cross country from his crazy-ass mom. My husband defended it. He is also co-dependant with a crazy-ass enabler of a mother. I should have run far away right then. And while "The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That" is an awesome show & book series, I will never let my kids read the original or see the movie. That's just a terrible message for the kids! My personal favorite children's book: "I Love You, Stinkyface." Perfect combination of I-love-you-no-matter-what and I'm-going-to-call-you-obnoxious-animal-names-because-it's-funny.

Jen said...

JACLYN - That book was only made creepier by the advent of the damned Mike Myers movie remake. ((shudder)) Just say no to pedophiles in striped hats, kids.

TIFFANY - I don't know "I Love You, Stinkyface"; I'll have to look for it!

starle said...

When I started reading this I kept thinking' please let her list the giving tree!' Well done!
I hate the Velveteen Rabbit almost as much!
THIS has to be the worst of the bunch however!

-Vince said...

Don't ever go back and rewatch your favorite childhood movies/tv. That shit was CRAZY!

I can remember the day I was turned off to reading. I was reading a book for fun (some crap about Vikings*) when my teacher said I needed to do a book report on it. Well that quickly instilled the "Read for school, do schoolwork... Read for fun, do schoolwork. Fuck that!" mindset in this stubborn numbers wiz's head. It wasn't untill recently that I have started to enjoy reading for sport.

*zombies and murderers and spies have WAY more fun stories than stupid Vikings.

Leauxra said...

I have ALWAYS hated the boy in "The Giving Tree". I think that it IS a cautionary tale... I mean, have you ever read "The Missing Piece meets the Big O" (also by Shel Silverstein)? Yet another masterpiece cautioning all children that if they don't stand up on their own, they will be doomed to loneliness and abuse.

Jen said...

STARLE - That video officially gave me the heebies AND the jeebies. In no small part due to that creeper who was narrating it. ACCCCK!!!

VINCE - Recently watched the original "Charlie And The Chocolate Factory" with my short people. Wha-whaWHAT!?!? That is some sketchy shit right there, yo.

LEAUXRA - Although I truly love "Where The Sidewalk Ends" and "A Light In The Attic". However, Silverstein's best work has to be his adult alphabet book, "Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book". Hi-fricking-larious!

Winopants said...

Wow, the mom cradling her adult son was super-creeper status.
I was always a fan of the book Fortunately, cause that shit is real life:
Fortunately, it was a sunny day
Unfortunately, I had to go to work
Fortunately, the kitchen put out dessert for everyone to stuff their faces
And so it goes, endlessly

Poodles McGee said...

The Pokey Little Puppy was my favorite book as a kid, and I made my teenage sister read it to me every single night. (She despises that book now, and refused to read it to her kid.)

As an adult I realize I loved it because it taught me that punctuality is wildly overrated, and if you stay out long enough for parents to give up waiting for you to come home, you can totally eat everybody's dessert.

Jen said...

WINO - I LOVE "Fortunately". Now THAT'S some honest shit to prepare our kids for the daily disappointments in life. :)

POODLES - Learning to be a lazy bastard and binging on strawberry shortcake? That's a moral I can stand behind.

Erica Burns said...

My kids are 9 and 5, an dI dont' think we own a single Dr. Seuss book, AND the man was from my region of the state.. I don't even recall the story of the cat in the hat as I can't remember the last time I read it. I remember once in Spanish class in high school 15 years ago, some friends translated Sam I am into spanish, and that shit got old real fast. "Yo soy Sam. Sam yo soy"... rinse lather repeat.

In fact the only one our of your list I have ever read is Good night moon, and only my oldest listened to that one..

starle said...

Ooops. I had a chance to watch the whole video that I posted. That was the sanitized and kid friendly version!

Avert your eyes everyone!

I was going to quote the massive difference, but I just cannot do that to your readers!

you saw the video so I do not need to tell you that this does not end well at all!\

I promise that I will never post anything this nasty in your comments ever again!

Jennifer Clark said...

Oh good lord.... Miles & I must have read "Goodnight Moon" every single night for at least 3 years, solid. I got to the point of changing the words to see if my kids were even listening. And they corrected me every single time. Thank goodness they are past the stage of mindless repetition!

Jen said...

ERICA - I adore Dr. Seuss. The Sneetches and Horton are my favorite, but the Lorax can eat a steaming bowl of dicks. Judgmental little hippie.

JENNIFER C - Have you seen the updated "Goodnight, iPad" version? It is glorious.

Fyre said...

Hehehe...I love reading everyone's take on kids books. Makes me see them in a whole new light. Proof that it is definitely a good thing I'm not a bedtime entertainment would be Samuel L Jackson reading "Go the Fuck to Sleep". And that Hobya story is seriously freaky! I may have to sleep with the light on tonight...

Unknown said...

Thank you for calling out the "Giving Tree" for what it is: asshole kid abuses a very nice tree. Everyone I know is all, "Oh, I love that book, it's so sweet!" and they are wrong.

I found your site recently and was instantly hooked. Thanks for being you and writing about it for us to enjoy!

Jen said...

STARLE - Can't get the new link to work. Boo! :(

FYRE - I love the shit out of "Go The @#$% to Sleep". And ANYTHING Sam Jackson does is genius. Genius, I say.

UNKNOWN - I hate that book so hard. I blame it for raising an entire generation of self-entitled assholes.

Andrea said...

Hey wait! The goldfish was babysitting those kids!

I used to think the Giving Tree was so beautiful. I remember giving a copy to a teenage boyfriend as he was leaving for college. I didn't realize how shitty life was for that poor low self-confidence tree until I got dumped junior year!

What was so damn award winning about Good-night Moon!? UGH!

QOE said...

I, for one, would like to know how in the hell the Man with the Yellow Hat avoided jail time for animal welfare violations? Do you know what happens when monkeys are allowed to roam around the streets unsupervised? Curious George Flings Poo and Eats Your Face. That's what happens.

P.S. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie = Downfall of the free world. Don't give cookies to rodents, people. Don't.

Meg said...

I don't get the popularity of Goodnight Moon. At all. Or anything by Eric Carle. Hungry Caterpillar? Total crap.

Tova said...

Robert Munch totally redeemed himself with "The Paperbag Princess" that is possibly the beat kids book ever and if you haven't read it next time you are in Powell's I strongly suggest it. It is for little kids but I think all women between 13 and dead should read to too.

mothers little hleper said...

I dont usually comment but reading and inculcating the habit in my sons is something very close to my heart, but I haven't read most of the books that you mentioned. I read to my sons from a different set of authors, namely Enid Blyton and "The Magic Faraway Tree" was their favourite. They then progressed to Roald Dahl books. I never liked Dr Suess...

Brett Minor said...

I totally agree with you about Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book. Most people have never heard of it, but it is by FAR the best thing he has ever written. I love it.

Wily Guy said...

Moms giving handjobs to truckers to support a meth habit...

Who is being judgy now?

Hysterical as always Jen!


Mandy said...

Totally with you on "The Cat in the Hat"... that shit ain't right. To this DAY I haven't read it to CJ. "Are You My Mother" is another one that makes me cringe. Really? This poor bird is so fucked up that he can't tell who his Mama is? I'm waiting on THAT sequel "Who dat is? Dat jus' mah baby daddy!"

Anonymous said...

Had to comment (anonymously). I find "I Love You Forever" incredibly creepy on its own merits, which I have argued to my friends on numerous occasions. I tell myself I have always felt that way, but I admit that I may be biased because I hold the creepiness trump card: my mother-in-law gave a specially inscribed copy to my husband...on our wedding day! (dun-dun-dun)

Allyson Ford said...

Personally, I prefer this book for my kiddos:

It's my favorite baby shower gift these days...guess that makes me a bit bent, but it get's people laughing and keeping it real with all of the Awwwws and Ohhhhhs.

Chrissy said...

On a slightly different note: As far as I know, you have not been hanging out with my almost 5 yo daughter and she doesn't read your blog. But recently, maybe 1-2 times a day, she finishes a sentence with a "yo". She doesn't know where she learned it but it totally cracks me up and makes me think of you. Just thought I'd share that with ya. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Valerie said...

Holy.... Wow... I... I think I'm speechless for the first time in my life.

Well played... Well played indeed.



Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

HO-LY-SHIT. Is your husband named Norman?

Sorry I would have run screaming from that scenario.

Natalia Silva said...

For the giving tree, I disagree with most comments here, and wanted to share a different perspective on this book. And humans are selfish, children can be very selfish. I teach kindergarten, and I see it..."Is this a sad tale? Well, it is sad in the same way that life is sad. We are all needy, and, if we are lucky and any good, we grow old using others and getting used up... Our finitude is not something to be regretted or despised, however; it is what makes giving (and receiving) possible. The more you blame the boy, the more you have to fault human existence. The more you blame the tree, the more you have to fault the very idea of parenting. Should the tree's giving be contingent on the boy's gratitude? If it were, if fathers and mothers waited on reciprocity before caring for their young, then we would all be doomed."