Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Parenting Lessons from Children's Books: The Cat in the Hat


illustration by Dr. Seuss

In Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat, the cat sweeps in with intentions of fun, and ends up making a mess of things.  When I read the book with this series in mind, The Cat's balancing act made an impression. He brags:  

"I can hold up the cup, 
and the milk and the cake!
I can hold up these books!
And the fish on a rake!
I can hold the toy ship
And a little toy man! 
And look! With my tail, 
I can hold a red fan!
I can fan with the fan
As I hop on the ball!
But that is not all.
Oh, no. 
That is not all..." 

Parents are always trying to find the elusive balance.  Time with kids battles with time for self.  Outside obligations battle family togetherness. Convenience battles nutrition, we battle ourselves as we compare our shortcomings with others-  but that is not all. Oh no, that IS NOT ALL.  Soon, we find ourselves carrying as many things as the Cat, (and if you're like me, some of it is  just for show), balanced precariously on the ball, and we meet the same fate the cat did.  We crash, and things become a mess. 

We watched a very good production of The Cat in the Hat on Netflix.  One part that was very well done is this balancing act. Having done some theater, and my husband and I were impressed with the way it was staged, and curious about the technical aspects of connecting the props. However, those props- the rakes, the book, the cake, the ball- were all crafted to work together and balance properly so that the actor could support them and perform to the best of his ability.  How many of the things you are balancing are crafted to fit together, and how many are just for show?   Can you really maintain your balance while carrying so many things, or can some be eliminated?  And why are you balancing them in the first place?  

Dallin H. Oaks said "We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is no a sufficient reason for doing it.  The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them.  Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority in our lives."    In other words, do you need to fan with the fan as you hop on the ball?  Would it be better to hold the one most important thing, very firmly in both hands so that we know it won't be dropped? 

Some things cannot be put down immediately, but maybe someone else is just as capable of holding it as you are.  Maybe it doesn't need to be held at all.   By prioritizing the things we hold, maybe we will come closer to that magical place of balance and equilibrium, and we won't have to put on a show for anyone.  

3 comments:

  1. I really liked that. Over the last few years I've had to drop some things that I like to do to make room for other things that were more important. And it's not that they were bad or not worthwhile things, it's just that there's only so many hours in a day. Someday I hope to be able to pick them back up and keep juggling. And somethings I need to work on so that I don't have to juggle them anymore. I liked this analogy and this post.

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  2. Thank you, Rae. This is really good.

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