The other day I had a great phone conversation with my son, a college freshman. It was one of those deep and meaningful conversations you can have with your child when he becomes an adult. We were discussing whether or not the cat in the Cat in the Hat was real or if it was only the imagination of the kids in the story.
“You know, Mom, that story is really disturbing.”
“What do you mean?”
“It bothered me.”
As soon as he said that, I recalled a scenario between him and me.
It was bedtime after a long day. “Will you read Frog and Toad, Mom?”
I glanced at my watch. I was tired and twenty-some pages of The Adventures of Frog and Toad seemed like War and Peace. Scanning the shelf, I pulled out a nice, thin Dr. Seuss book.
The Cat in the Hat. Yeah, that’ll work. It’s short, succinct and maybe I’ll have some ‘me time.’ Yeah…this one will do. This is known as Mom Logic. Sometimes it backfires.
Stephen agreed to Seuss. We cuddled up and I began reading. All was fine until I got to the part where the mom left.
“Why did the mother leave them?”
“She’ll be back. She just went to run an errand.”
“She shouldn’t do that. You won’t do that, will you?”
“No, I won’t. I promise.”
I can tell by the contemplative look on his face. He was not going to let it go.
My precocious, verbose child and I discuss the grievance of the mother’s absence before he lets me continue reading.
I thought we’d passed the part of contention when all of the sudden—
“Where’d she go?”
“I don’t know. Maybe to the store.”
“Why didn’t she take her kids?”
“I don’t know, Stephen. Maybe they didn’t want to go.”
“How old are they?”
“It doesn’t say.”
At this point, I tried to redirect him. However, I realized it was not going to be easy. Once he latches onto something he won’t let it go. I can’t imagine where he gets it.
“It’s okay. They’re old enough to stay alone.”
“No, they don’t look like teenagers.”
“Why aren’t they in school?”
I sighed. “It’s a Saturday.”
I knew we’d never get through the book at this rate and my ‘me time’ was quickly dwindling.
“Mom…why didn’t she wait to go to the store until they go at school?”
I had to smile . He’ll make a great lawyer someday, but… I should’ve read Frog and Toad.
“It’s summer.” I continue reading until—
The Cat shows up…
“They opened the door? You told me not to open the door without you.”
“Yeah. They shouldn’t have done that.” I try to continue with story.
He wasn’t going to let it slide by. I glance at my watch again. ‘Me time’ is not going to happen. That’s all right…
We spent a few minutes talking about the safety of opening the door to strangers until he’s satisfied.
I continue to read.
The appearance of The Cat bothered him, but when The Cat unleashed Thing 1 and Thing 2, Stephen’s brow furrowed, he crossed his arms in front of him. Here we go, I thought.
“Why are they so mean to the fish?” If you remember, the fish was the voice of reason and no one would listen to him.
He particularly hated when they put the fish in jeopardy at the top of a stack of miscellaneous items.
Although he didn’t quite have the vocabulary to express it in technical terms, he questioned the physics of the stack, exacting at what point it would’ve or should’ve toppled over.
A few minutes later, he finally got off his probability thought train.
“…and that’s why they shouldn’t put him there. The water will spill and how will he breathe, Mom?”
I agreed. It wasn’t funny how the cat harassed that poor fish.
That’s when it hit me. Dr. Seuss classified the three basic types of people in the world! The fish, the cats and the Things.
Stephen and I are fish. We like order. We don’t think those kids should have been left alone, shouldn’t have opened the door or let a strange cat in to torment the fish.
My other son (who always loved the story) and his father are cats. Always finding enjoyment no matter where they are, always ready for a game, a competition or a party. Life is all about the fun.
Which brings us to the last category.
“Mom, what are the things?”
“They are…I’m not sure, son. That’s why they’re called things.”
“Or maybe they’re just mischievous.”
“What is that? They want attention?”
“Yes! That’s right.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
And there you have the three basic personality types ala Dr. Seuss
Let’s test my theory.
Love adventure? Can you drop everything for a last minute excursion, no notice, no planning? You can jump in the car and find something to do spur of the moment? Chances are you’re a cat.
Make lists? Check things off with a feeling of accomplishment? Make an itinerary not just for your vacation to Disney World, but have a detailed schedule once you get into the theme park? (Yes, I am guilty of that. Hey—we hit all the rides in record time with very little waiting.) Chances are you’re a fish. Note: Watch out. Sometimes the cats like to drive the fish crazy because, well, because it’s so easy to do.
Have piercings on your body in attention-grabbing places? Always in the middle of a crisis? Some sort of excitement (negative or positive) follows you everywhere? You might be a Thing. These people are the drama kings and queens of the world. They make life interesting…but it’s always better if it’s someone else’s life they’re making interesting.
To have a successful party you need:
1. The fish to plan it.
2. Cats to attend it.
3. Thing 1 and Thing 2 (but I wouldn’t recommend more than that).
At the end of my conversation with Stephen, we decided it had to be the imaginations of the children. That made the whole scenario work in our minds.
Gregory, my 11th grader, walked in on the last part of the conversation and disagreed. He thought the cat was hilarious and it really ‘happened’ to those lucky kids.
There you have it. The cats in the family think it all happened. The fish deny it. There was only one more opinion I needed.
So, I asked the Thing in our family (whom shall remain nameless). She thinks it was all an allegorical government conspiracy plot with double meanings and Dr. Seuss was a spy. There you have it. My theory works.
The next night, I bet I read Frog and Toad.