Little Bean has taken a shine to this book in the last few weeks and now it is the only bedtime story she is interested in reading. Each evening I read it to her. Then she says, Ok, now I want to read it all by myself. She snuggles up in the crook of my shoulder and reads it to me. Page by page she recites the story, almost word for word. She even starts with the title and then adds, Story and pictures by Maurice Sendak. Tonight I may have fallen asleep for a few pages during her reading, but she didn’t notice. It just allowed her to take even longer than usual, examining the pictures on each page as she contemplates who each wild thing really is.
I shouldn’t be surprised that this story speaks to her. She is a wild thing herself. She refuses teeth brushing, runs away from the doctor, squeezes her eyes shut when I tell her to look at me. She throws her glasses when she doesn’t want to wear them and would prefer pushing her hair out of her face to wearing a barrett. She turns away from her plate when she doesn’t like the look of what’s being served. On other days she devours the food, shoving it all into her mouth with out taking any bites. She swings on the bar at the top of the slide, before shouting something and sliding down as fast as she can manage. She imitates what other kids do, masters it or injures herself trying and then moves on to the next thing.
I’m so intrigued that she loves this book because I was always kind of afraid of it. The whole idea scared me as a kid–this trouble-making little boy and the mere existence of wild things. But she’s entertained and empowered by them. When she reads it, it’s like she is Max. She’s not threatened when the wild things roar their terrible roars and nash their terrible teeth. It’s as if she’s the one who is taming them with a magic trick. And when she gets to the part where the wild things say, Oh please don’t go, we’ll eat you up, we love you so, she seems to literally love the wild things and feel loved by them at once.
After the 20th reading or so, I’m starting to think that maybe this book is a about life. About us. About owning your power, learning self-control, recognizing when you’ve had enough, and about feeling loved unconditionally.
Our lives are full of the wild things. All around us and inside us, it is our work to tame them. Luckily, we all have our own brand of magic to do it. (And if we’re not sure how to start, Max’s trick of staring into the eyes of the very wild thing you’re trying to tame is not a bad way to go. I’m sure this is why Little Bean squeezes her eyes so tightly shut when I tell her to look into mine. She knows that mommies have more magic than almost anyone.)
Oh please don’t go, I’ll eat you up, I love you so.Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are