Having small children, my reading has taken on a flavor not known for 40 years. As an adult, I find myself plagued by disturbing questions as I re-read some childhood favorites.
Kids love Dr. Seuss, and rightfully so. His delightful rhymes spark young imaginations. But reading The Cat in the Hat makes me wonder what kind of parenting world he lived in.
First, the children’s mother trots off to God-knows-where, leaving her two small children home unattended. Not that it would have mitigated her negligence, but she could have set them up with some activities so they had something better to do than stare at the rain during her absence. An idle mind is the itinerant, talking cat’s playground.
Perhaps she left the fish in charge of her darlings. If so, we quickly discover how well that arrangement worked. At minimum, a babysitter must be able to sustain himself in the same fluid as his charges. Let that be a lesson to us all.
Knowing that she was leaving her children home alone, or in the care of a being confined to a bowl, you’d think that Mom would lock the door on her way out. The Cat just waltzed right in, without the least hindrance from the deadbolt. While the children reported hearing a loud bump before the Cat’s appearance, a woman so obsessed with the state of her home would have noticed any damage to her front door upon her return, which she did not.
The Cat himself has some disturbing attitudes. Did he scout out the house in order to ascertain that children were alone? That’s creepy. And who bursts into a strange house in order to mentor unfamiliar children in the art of having fun? That’s not anything I want happening in my neighborhood.
The Cat’s attire gives me no comfort. I don’t trust people who, post-Victorian Era, wear tall hats. Neville Chamberlain wore a tall hat; ask a Czech if he could be trusted. The red and white stripes don’t dissuade my mistrust.
The uninvited Cat takes numerous liberties without the consent of the children, and with the positive disapproval of the fish. He caps his libertine antics with the introduction of two feral children he calls Things One and Two. While these creatures may be of scientific interest, one must wonder why they are in the custody of a cat and why they are forced, in this enlightened age, to live in a crate.
Fortunately, the Cat is a relatively benign intruder. He does nothing worse than leave the children in mortal fear of having their mother return to a messy house. This fear is well placed. Their mother appears the type to take no responsibility for the consequences of her own injudicious decisions. The children understand that they will be scapegoated and punished severely.
Luckily, the little boy is good with a net. His capture of the first of the feral Things is a turning point, upon which all hope of the children escaping their mother’s wrath depends. Only after the Things have been re-boxed is there any hope of cleaning the mess they created.
This brings us to the thrilling conclusion, and most suspect part of the story. The fish sees the mother approaching through the front window. Then, the Cat exits through the front door; returns with his fantastic cleaning machine, through the front door; has time to put the house in order; and drives his machine out again, through the front door. Meanwhile, there is no indication that the mother did anything but continue to approach the house, which she enters through the front door.
Even at an extremely leisurely pace, it is hard to believe that Mom did not reach the door before the Cat passed through it for the third time since her ankle was spotted by the fish. It is inconceivable that she did not notice a cat driving an ATV through the door.
These circumstances cast suspicion upon this delinquent mother. One must call her motives into question. While I don’t have enough evidence to piece together what she is up to, I would not object to Child Protective Services keeping an eye on her.
You could postulate that the Cat and his Things were figments of the children’s imaginations. This may be true, but if children are having these sorts of vivid hallucinations, one must wonder what stimulus is causing such sensory overload.
We can only hope that, in the ensuing years, everyone received the help they needed.