What would you do if your mother asked you?

As we come to the penultimate day in our week-long stretch of Dr. Seuss stories connected to his birthday and Read Me a Story Day (March 2nd), I can’t help but look back on one of my favorite moments of this annual event. It usually accompanies the closing sentence of Seuss’s The Cat in The Hat: “What would you do if your mother asked you?” The closing scene of Seuss’s first book is when the main character and his sister Sally – having barely managed to completed a whirlwind clean up after the Cat’s visit- sit innocently in their chairs just as their mother arrives home and walks through the front door to ask them how their day was. After closing the book, I likewise ask my first graders the same question: “What would you do if your mother asked you?” In other words, would you tell her that the Cat (a friendly stranger) politely forced entry into their home and joyfully ransacked their house while she was out?

It is humorous to listen to the replies coming from the unfiltered psyches of the six-year-old minds…

“NO! I would definitely NOT tell!”

“You HAVE to tell! You have to be honest – it’s the only way!”

“NO WAY!”

“You’ve got to tell! She’ll find out anyway! She always does.”

“I would just say that everything was fine, and REALLY hope that she doesn’t ask anymore questions…”

The moral proposal and the accompanying answers offer an unfiltered glimpse into the moral reasoning of a six year old when the stakes are high. Is it okay to not tell the truth? When is it okay to not tell the truth? What happens if you get away with it? What happens if you don’t? It surprises me – year after year – that such a simple book ends with such a loaded question; the discussion afterwards is meaningful and revealing. Curiously, I’ve never been asked why the mom leaves her young children alone for that long to begin with.

Hmmmm… That is another discussion best left for another time.

Oh, Dr, Seuss – you entertain us every March, just as winter becomes too long.

Your rhymes are simple but your questions are not!

8 thoughts on “What would you do if your mother asked you?

  1. Thank you! Its a good read that is always good fodder for discussion and character analysis (of my students!) every year. Now, what is really in question in the book is the parent presence, or lack thereof!

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  2. Right! Tell my mother some anthropomorphic cat caused a disaster, and some mysterious device (deus ex machina) helped him restore everything to order at the last minute. She’d have had me evaluated.

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  3. It is interesting to hear the varied responses. As an adult, I learned more about Dr. Seuss’s racist leaning and I find I am avoiding sharing his books, which is hard because there are some I really enjoy sharing.

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    1. I was not aware of that negative side to Dr. Seuss; I am sorry to learn of that šŸ˜¦ After reading The Sneetches to my kiddos today, it’s hard to believe. I been using that book as part of my MLK lessons for years now and its message is just the opposite of intolerance and non-acceptance. Too bad.

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