Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fishsitting, or, don't tell your mother...

In the news today: In the US, the rate of child abuse has shot up at almost exactly the same time that the economy has foundered. Analysts are linking the two.

So… you get laid off, or you lose some of your ‘value’ on the stock exchange, and you think to yourself ‘Hell. May as well abuse a child’???

In the news this week in Cape Town: Teenager kills dad over argument in kitchen, girl kills mom, mom goes to prison for killing stepdaughter, former policeman pleads stress and amnesia after killing his three children, child’s body found in bushes… These are just the ones with enough news-sex-appeal to get into the papers.

Reading a favourite bedtime story tonight: First time I’ve read it to Jonah- the other two have had it dozens of times- reading The Cat In The Hat out of the original copy I got 36 years ago. The cover is falling off, and Dr Seuss’s crazy colours are fading, but it is one of the best children’s books ever written. I could probably recite it for you…

So all the crap news is in my head, and I’m thinking, what kind of mother (the father is only mentioned in the sequel- so he appears to be a rock star or a bible salesman) goes off to town ‘for the day’ and leaves her two pre-teen children alone? It was written in the fifties- well after the Great Depression of the thirties- when, according to the news today, people must have been abusing kids like chickens peckin’ corn, and well before the General Depression of the Sixties when mothers started chugging pills like tic tacs- so where was she?

Is this window period of history the perfect time? An idyllic environment, where children could be left to fret about tidiness and order? Would be great to have that back. By my calculations, it will return in a cyclical way in 2023. Just as my children have finished growing up.

The mother (we only ever see her hand and feet, seems pleasant enough- but juxtapose that with the fear on her children’s faces. She could be a high-class prostitute, out scoring opium for her clients, or merely meeting the gals for cocktails. As Seuss is dead, we’ll never know the secret behind what the mother did, the horrors of the Cat House.


  1. Yes where was she indeed. I remember similar Enid Blyton story scenarios where the kids were left to entertain themselves with the dog, Topsy or something while their parents were God knows where doing God knows what. Strange times. We were left alone with the maid (i mean domestic worker) who we abused regularly. Brats. Haha

  2. @divinebee: I'm thinking of getting a dog, buying a ton of easily opened dried food and disappearing for a few days. I'm sure Hannah would make sure the others manage to eat.

  3. Now I'm trying to remember how old my brothers and I were when we were left alone, in charge of my baby sister. I'm going to go with 14, 12, and 10. We didn't have a fish to sit us, though.

    The dark side of Dr. Seuss stories...

  4. @Briane P:I distinctly remember watching horror movies as a pre-teen with my brother watching us. He was 12.
    The Blob!
    The Paper Man! (possibly the most frightening movie ever made).

  5. Dr Seuss was one strange duck...


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