I think about childhood a lot. I think about childhood a lot because becoming a parent meant, in many ways, that I was granted a front-row, second-person version of childhood. I get to do it again, this time without the first-person pain. And yet, as a mother, I get a new sort of a pain, the sort that only comes from the poignant distance of being the invested, one-woman audience of another person’s show.
Maurice Sendak died today. I’m very rarely moved by the death of those celebrities immortalized on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and countless blogs calling out to the world. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I don’t really care.
Yet hearing of Sendak’s passing, I paused. I dug the guy. I liked his curmudgeonly persona. I identify with his view of children. This is a dude who didn’t hesitate to write to the darker corners of childhood, a man who didn’t shy away from treating children as what they are: people. He wrote of monsters and isolation, rupture and anger.
He was honest. I think (and I am well aware that it’s a tad presumptuous for me to assert this) that he was honest for the same reason I give it to the Kaiser straight. Kids know. They understand subtlety and metaphor.
“We’ve educated children to think that spontaneity is inappropriate. Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren’t. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they’re really protecting themselves. Besides, you can’t protect children. They know everything.”