Today, I reflect on one of my favorite things to do with my children: read stories. In particular, reading bedtime stories to my 2.5 year old daughter. My son, being 9 months, prefers the taste of board books. While I respect his willingness to expand his palate, it’s not really as engaging of a read for me when the page with the picture of the cat is covered in slobber. Wait, does that mean he’s ready to eat Chinese food? Is that why he also tries to put the cat’s tale in his mouth? Suddenly his fascination with the cat seems a lot more menacing. Looks like it will be a while before I leave them unattended together.
But, played out jokes about feline-flavored Asian cuisine aside, I love reading bedtime stories with my daughter. I gotta admit, though, I’m having a problem with one of her current favorites: The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Dr. Seuss in general, despite his history of racism (yeah, that’s a thing). As a bleeding heart liberal social justice warrior, it’s important to me to subtly indoctrinate my daughter with such propaganda as the Sneetches, a well-written story about discrimination and classism/racism/bellystarism. It’s also a cautionary tale, I believe, about traveling monkey salesmen. As a general rule, you should never trust a monkey who builds a machine and claims he can fix all your problems for $3. Also, how brave/desperate was the first Sneetch to go through the machine and trust that he wouldn’t come out as sausage on the other side? Makes me feel like a huge wimp for wincing every time I go through a car wash. Anyways, the Sneetches teach us about finding the commonalities that unite us. Like everyone (or at least all the Sneetches on the beaches) being broke – although, where did the Sneetches keep all their money? Pouches? Are Sneetches marsupials? And what is the exchange rate on the Sneetch currency? How many frankfurters for frankfurter roasts can one buy with a Sneetch dollar? Also, I love the Sneetches because every time we are on the page with the frankfurter roasts, my daughter asks what is happening. And I am way, way too excited to tell her they’re roasting weenies while giggle snorting.
So, my beef is not with the story of the Sneetches. It is with one of the other stories, Too Many Daves. While I can see the lesson for my daughter to learn from The Sneetches (Sneetches are Sneetches and none are the best upon beaches), The Zax (don’t be maladaptively stubborn), and What Was I Scared Of (the things we fear often fear us just as much and really aren’t so scary), I have a hard time understanding the lesson I am supposed to absorb from Too Many Daves. For those of you unfamiliar with the “plot,” Mrs. McCave had 23 sons, all named Dave, and this causes problems when she calls for Dave to come into the house.
Let me start with the obvious: although I feel strongly about not judging others for how many children they have, even I admit I have to question Mrs. McCave’s proclivity to treat her lady parts as a clown car. I mean, if we do some quick math, with pregnancy being approximately 9 months, at 23 kids, Mrs. McCave might have been pregnant for *pauses to get calculator on iPhone and secretly laughs at all those teachers who said I needed to memorize multiplication because I wouldn’t always have a calculator in my pocket* 207 months, or more than 17 years of her life. My spouse graciously consented to be pregnant with our children for ~18 months, and my belief is she deserves to have a statue erected. We haven’t done that because the kids would just knock it over, but she deserves one for 9% of Mrs. McCave’s work. So, I’m kind of concerned about the beliefs and expectations my daughter is developing about pregnancy and children.
Next, let’s not sleep on the math of having 23 kids and them all being boys. I’m sure that all my friends who know better about genetics will correct me here (and you can just shut it – no one cares, I’m making a funny point and doing match on my iPhone), but if the odds of having a boy is 50/50 with each birth, then the odds of having 23 sons is 0.00001%. Mr. McCave’s sperm containing Y chromosomes are clearly the Michael Phelps of his swimmers.
But anyways, once we get past the numbers, another thing the astute parent who has read the book approximately 23,436 times cannot help but notice is that all of the Daves appear incredibly close in age. How many of these births were multiples? And how much does this throw off my math about how many months Mrs. McCave spent pregnant? I repeat my concern about Mrs. McCave’s tendency to carry 10 lbs of baby in a 5 lb uterus, so-to-speak. I mean, some of the oldest McCave kids should be graduated from college and launching into careers by the time the younger ones are school-aged and running around as depicted by Seuss. But instead, they all look to be in elementary school. Was Mrs. McCave using in vitro fertilization? It’s none of my business, I know, but one has to wonder.
And the size of the house they’re living in – I think it may be time to call child protective services, because there is no way they all fit under that one roof. I mean, CPS is probably busy investigating the older lady living in a shoe with too many kids, but when they get done in Mother Goose land, they should take a peak to see if the McCave’s are violating some sort of fire code for maximum occupancy, at the very least. I don’t want to tell people how to live, but at some point, you have to tell someone it is a cottage, not a sardine can.
And then we get to the stated problem – Mrs. McCave named all her sons Dave. ALL. OF. THEM. Why? We’re never told why, or why Mr. McCave, who is conspicuously absent from the story, never intervened once to say, “Sweetheart, I know you loved the name Dave the first five times, but don’t you think it’s coming to be just the teensiest bit played out, like jokes about cats in Chinese food?” (see what I did there? *gives self a running joke high five*) No explanation is given. We’re just left to assume it is a totally reasonable and adult decision to name all 23 of your children the same name. I really feel like we’re being deprived of some important back-story.
But even after just accepting that a grown woman could name all her kids Dave, we’re supposed to just indiscriminately swallow the listing of all the different possible names she wishes she could have named her kids? Have you seen the list? It includes such gems as Marvin O’Gravel Balloon Face and Paris Garters. How is Harris Tweed better than the current situation? Why can’t Mrs. McCave fantasize about having kids named things like Robert, William, and Peter? And, after all these years, she hasn’t worked out some sort of system of nicknames, or something? That is a hardcore degree of learned helplessness to simply acquiesce and say, “Well, all my kids are named Dave, nothing else I can do.”
One final point as well, and that is that Mrs. McCave is always Mrs. McCave. No first name, no individual identity. She’s just a wife and mother. What life of quiet desperation is she living? What career did she leave to stay home with the children? None of these questions is addressed by Seuss. It’s almost as if he simply wanted an excuse to rhyme a bunch of silly names… Nah, that couldn’t be it. There has to be deeper meaning here if we just keep looking. You’ll have to do it without my assistance, however; I just heard a deviant giggle from Finn and a “meow” followed by suspicious silence from the cat in the other room. I must investigate.