Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. You bastard.

I am not a skilled sales person. I shudder at sales-speak; I have enough training to recognize all the buzzwords and techniques salespeople use. When I feel them in use (it's visceral with me), I twitch. I really, physically, twitch. Laura has no use for giving sales pitches; if you can't see the ridiculously obvious benefits of her ideas, you are dismissed out of hand. Thus we can likely rule out "Nature" for one of Jay's finest gifts, and go straight to "Nurture."

So, who in our collective histories is the ultimate pitch man, the finest closer, the one with an answer to every objection? Who has the truly indefatigable spirit, the enthusiasm of a Mormon missionary, the drive and energy of a Tony Robbins washing down a double-dose of dexatrim with a triple espresso?

There is but one, and we have indoctrinated our son with his words several times a week for many months. Insidious and yet obvious, in the brilliance of morning light, His Words are most often delivered by exhausted parents, at desperate hours of the night. "Please go to bed, darling. Yes, one more book. Okay, yes! That's a great choice! So educational! Cozy up, honey, hug tight, and let's visit our friend..."

Sam I Am.

That Sam I Am, I do not like that Sam I Am.

The protagonist in "Green Eggs and Ham", who Jay has named "The Silly Person", is usually played by me. It's better that way; the story is followed more truly. When the roles are reversed, and Jay is the objector, Sam I Am (dad) generally crumples in the end, or unfairly and ungraciously skips straight into the Butter Battle Book.

Jay's skills go beyond even those of Sam I Am, but I blame Ted Geisel for introducing my son to the very idea that EVERYTHING is negotiable.

In honor of Theodor Geisel/ Dr. Seuss' birthday, I offer the following Seussian negotiation with my son:

Jay! Would you like your socks HERE or THERE?!?

I would not like them here OR there. I would not like them ANYWHERE.

I shall not, will not wear my socks. Here, daddy! Let's eat some rocks! 
I will not, shall not put on socks. Eat some rocks! Poop on blocks! 
(diversionary technique, pointing out options that make his choice look like a winner for me).

The couch! The couch! 
Let's put on socks here on the couch!

I would, not could not on the couchy.
Those ugly socks make my feet ouchy. 
I cannot wear my socks, you see. 
Daddy, daddy, let me be!

With a TRAIN! A TRAIN! Would you, could you holding a train?

Not with a train, not on the couch.
Looky Daddy! A kangaroo! With a pouch! (change the subject entirely, also known as the "Look! It's Halley's Comet" technique).

How about a boat? A BOAT! Would you like to hold this boat?

No thanks, Daddy. Can I have a goat?

Not with a goat, Jay. Not today. 
Don't you want to go out and play?

Damn. He has turned it around on me again. I am supposed to be getting something from HIM.

I do not like socks here OR there. I do not like socks ANYWHERE.
I do not like socks, Daddy. PLEASE.
I do not like it when you tease! (Now cometh the guilt trip)

Jay, honey, I'm not teasing.
That's my stress-induced asthma wheezing.
I hate to give you such bad news, 
but socks go on before your shoes!

I do not want socks or shoes. I do not like your angry news.
I do not like shoes or socks. Let's go play with my toy box! 

How about a milky cup? C'mon, before the day's used up!
Let's start with just this one sock. (Oh. My. God. Look at the clock!)

Not one sock, not one shoe. 
Daddy, Daddy, I'm TALKING to you! (the "YOU are disrespecting ME" turnaround technique)

The chair. Yes, the chair! 
Let's sit in the rocker.

No, Daddy. 
A ball! Let's play soccer!

Not on the couch, not in the chair. 
I do not want them ANYWHERE!

Not with a train, not with a boat. 
Daddy? I REALLY want a goat.

Would you, could you, on the floor?
We should be heading out the door...

Not on the couch, not in the chair, 
not on the floor. DAD! No more!

You do not like them, so you say.
Try them, and you may, dear Jay!
Try them, try them and you'll see. 
Try them then I'll let you be!

(Not even bothering to rhyme.
We're really running out of time.
We really need a good diversion, 
to overcome this aversion.)

Let's read a book, like Mother Goose!

How abooooooooouuuuut... Dr. Seuss!

If socks are this tough, consider the jacket.
Boy, is THAT gonna create a racket.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born 110 years ago today. Over his lifetime, he wrote and illustrated dozens of books, for children and otherwise. His writings were labeled by some as subversive, as he took on rampant consumerism with The Sneetches (1961), environmental exploitation with The Lorax (1971), and the folly of mutually assured destruction during the heat of the arms race in The Butter Battle Book (1984). As early as 1986 he pointed out the inefficiencies of our health care system in You're Only Old Once.

Along the way he entertained us with socially inept and daft characters, and with an illustration style often copied, but never really matched.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish is a crazy ride of free association, and a primer on how to make up words when one can't find a rhyme. Horton Hears a Who reminds us of the vital notion that a person is a person, no matter how small.

In the end, after a lifetime of verbalizing and picturing our collective silliness, using words and images that caricatured those follies to a previously unimaginable level, the good Dr. left us with a message of hope and excitement. The last book published before his death, Oh, The Places You'll Go, has become a classic gift to arriving babies and departing friends.

Mr. Geisel, I jest in the title and early text of this post. Know that you, your words, and every one of your characters are welcome in our home. My son has already met many, and there is a line out the door waiting for him. There is much to learn, about compassion, about the power of one person (or elephant) with a sense of mission, about overcoming a jaded, Grinchy past. 

My son will see the end of many things. I hope he will speak for the trees. I cannot guarantee he won't care about having a star on his chest (or not having one), but he'll know the story of the Sneetches. He'll be on his own from there. I hope he will understand the power of making independent decisions.

Happy birthday, sir. Thanks.

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