All Ages

A First-Time Parent Reflects on the Magic of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

by Keith Rice

There has never been a children’s author quite like Dr. Seuss. It’s hard to imagine growing up in a world without cats in hats and Whos from Whoville, without delightfully imaginative worlds and life lessons from a Lorax. His unforgettable characters, colorful illustrations, and wonderfully playful rhymes have enchanted readers of all ages for decades. I was certainly one of the enchanted and I’m certain my little one will be as well. In fact, I’m watching him sleep as I write this and imagining all the places he’ll one day go.

There’s a special sort of magic in great children’s literature — a kind of universal charm that first engages us then continues to resonate in ways both unexpected and profound. These seemingly simple books that so fascinate young and curious minds are, for many of us, the first real window into the wonder and possibility of the world that awaits us. It can be easy to lose sight of the marvels and potential that greet us every day, to forget that in every challenge there is also opportunity. Children’s literature, at its best, is a guide. A reminder that there is a world waiting for us, one of complications and setbacks to be certain, but, more importantly, one of wide-open possibilities and wondrous places.

“Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”

I was sitting in a crowded, too-hot gymnasium with 130 or so other hopeful and anxious soon-to-be-graduates the first time I really heard those words. It almost certainly was not the first time someone had read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! to me, but it is the time that I remember most clearly. There I sat, brains in my head and feet in my shoes, suddenly identifying with the silly rhymes from a children’s book I hadn’t thought about in years. It was a comforting message, today was my day after all and the world waiting for me was “opener” than any I had known. But, the message was an also an honest one: There are adventures to be had and roads to be traveled but many will be difficult and not all will be safe. It is our judgment that’s important — after all, we have those brains in our head to go along with the shoes in our feet.

So, here I sit, writing these words, reflecting on a classic children’s book, and watching my little guy start to fuss just a bit, and I see those silly rhymes and colorful illustrations with a fresh pair of eyes. Since that afternoon in a too-hot gym, I can look back on the places I’ve been and recognize both the honesty and magic in Dr. Seuss’s words. I’ve seen high heights and great places, the windows darked and not-so-good streets, but it’s the mountains and wide-open air that I remember most clearly.

That’s really all I want for my little one: for him to one day look back on a life spent moving mountains, soaring the high heights, and making the most of this great balancing act. He’ll have difficulties to be sure, and I’ll do what I can to ease those, but it will be his feet in those shoes at the end of the day. And isn’t that the magic of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!?

There is a journey waiting, one that is both wondrous and difficult. I hope, as I’m sure all parents do, that my child will mostly see the wonder and try to have faith that he’ll manage the difficulties without too many scrapes.

Oh, the places you’ll go, little one!

But for now, just sleep.

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