Maurice Sendak on scary things

by Milton on Sun, Oct 25th, 2009

in Parenthood,Week 13

Something to chew on: “‘Wild Things’ is scary, but so is life

81-year-old Sendak is my king is because of what he said during a recent Newsweek interview that was intended to promote the film but no doubt wound up offending parents all over the country. It went like this:

Reporter: “What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?”

Sendak: “I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.”

Reporter: “Because kids can handle it?”

Sendak: “If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it’s not a question that can be answered.”

Sendak: “This concentration on kids being scared, as though we as adults can’t be scared. Of course we’re scared. I’m scared of watching a TV show about vampires. I can’t fall asleep. It never stops. We’re grown-ups; we know better, but we’re afraid.”

Reporter: “Why is that important in art?”

Sendak: “Because it’s truth. You don’t want to do something that’s all terrifying. I saw the most horrendous movies that were unfit for child’s eyes. So what? I managed to survive.”

Remember, this guy is 81 years old. I miss the way people used to be. A couple of generations ago, parents didn’t worry about whether kids were happy all the time or comfortable 24/7 or wrapped in protective coating. Of course, they didn’t want their children hurt. But it’s hard to imagine they would have spent much time and effort trying to keep kids from being scared.

Quite the contrary, they used to tell them scary stories at bedtime or on camping trips — usually the kind intended to frighten little ones into behaving correctly. “And then one day, all the kids who didn’t listen to their mommies and daddies just disappeared. …”

I get it. We really, really, really like our children. In fact, we love our children and we think they’re the most precious little darlings ever created, and so naturally we want to protect them. And we should protect them from some things — predators, disease, abuse, etc. But we shouldn’t protect them from all things. And we certainly can’t protect them from life. And part of life is getting scared now and then. In time, we learn to separate reality from fantasy.

And yet, while one infamous set of parents could face criminal charges for pretending their son was in a balloon, other parents think nothing of keeping their kids in a bubble.

Esther sent me the link to this article yesterday and I think we’re in agreement that Sendak is on to something here.

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