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Even the Parents from Whoville ZagZig… According to the Musical

Our teenager, the last child, Number 4, gave me a puzzled look when in the second act of the musical, Seussical, amidst the colorful costumes, vibrant lyrics like "a person is a person no matter how small," and the Cat in the Hat’s humorous actions, I started to get teary-eyed. Perhaps it is because once we opened up about ZagZig Parenting, I find parenting lessons everywhere, including in an entertaining musical during a scene with the Mayor and Mrs. Mayor of Whoville.

Let me set the stage. The leading family of Whoville includes a son whose parents say “thinks too much,” and as they lament that their son seems to imagine strange things and therefore acts abnormally, they sing a short song.

Oh, where are the instructions On how to raise a child? Who has the instructions On how to raise a child? Who has all the answers? I don't know.

Even in fantasyland, we get confirmation that there is no one right answer to the question of how to raise a child. (Or maybe we at least get a glimpse of what is going on in the minds of playwrights Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty as they convey a message in a complex mish-mash of a number of Suess’s most famous books). In fostering a great imagination, parents must make their own decisions about what is best for the child and the family.

This seems crazy. It is one of the most important jobs in life, to raise another human being to be the best person they can be, and it comes down to us, and a decision we make in the moment – about education, social and spiritual decisions and more.

After going through a number of ZagZig Parenting moments with Numbers 1-3, you’d think the experience would have numbed me a little; yet, each child is different and has his or her own “abnormal” moments when the mom radar increases and like Miss Clavel from the cartoon, Madeline, instinctively I know something is not right.

Just before the show, I had a conversation with Number 3 and Number 4 about something I valued, and in their best teenage mindsets they conveyed to me that they did not value it as much as I did. It was NOT life or death. It was NOT critical; although, I can say that now, not then, when I was raising my voice and asking them to just trust me and do it. When Number 4 and I went to the show that conversation was fresh on my mind.

As the kids get older, I am very conscience of not projecting my views on them (and if the kids read this, I can picture them rolling their eyes.) When they were younger, of course, we watched every move, saying don’t touch the hot stove, look both ways before crossing, and wear a hat in the winter. At this point, with the kids, teens to mid-20’s, it is a different conversation…most days. At this point, we say thing like, “well, you could take that path, but this one might be the option I would choose;” or “yes, you could live in an apartment on your own, and you could live with another person and save some money;” or even “sure that decision is a decent option; and have you considered this one?”

It is a delicate balance of giving them wings to fly and keeping one foot on the ground. (A mish-mash of my own based DJ KC Kasem's famous signoff from Top 40 Countdown, “Keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars.”) Some days I can do it well and others, when the Mama Bear in me comes out, I get caught up in knowing what is best; and like the Mayoral parents of Whoville, debate about sending a child to military school, when he thinks outside the parent box. (By the way, my thinking box is pretty big…I think.) The irony is that I want the kids to be independent thinkers and decision makers.

It is the contrast of my emotional reaction in the moment, and the reality that they are living their own lives, that had me teary-eyed as the Seussical cast belted “Oh, the things you can think!” I looked at Number 4 and thought, yes, I want you to use your imagination to grow and achieve. I want you to look beyond today and create something new that leads to your own happiness and success. And just as the elephant Horton, who has been sitting on an egg for close to a year, hatches the elephant bird, the tears fall.

Yes, an elephant can have wings. Yes, an elephant can “lay on an egg,” and protect a small speck of a population on a flower called Whoville. Yes, my child, “Oh, the things he can think…” but then again, he is not quite 18 yet. As his mom, I have some thoughts, some suggestions, just a few specks of ideas to share. Here is my song:

Oh, I will share, as a mom I will share.

But my son, I am not sure he will care.

At least today…and maybe tomorrow.

Until he is a parent and then may want to borrow…

From my wisdom and I will share, I will share and all I will bare.

For more relatable parenting Zag Zig moments, check out the book ZagZig Parenting: (Mis) Adventures of a Career-Driven Mom and Stay-At-Home Dad

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