Wild Thing

Taming My Two-Year-Old

Is it only a coincidence that this year, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of Maurice Sendak’s masterful picture book Where the Wild Things Are, is also the year our firstborn son turned two? Thanks to that milestone, plus the arrival of his new baby brother, Marty has been going through a “difficult” phase. Hoping a little time alone with Mommy would help, I took him to the bookstore. I wanted to introduce him to Max, the mischief-making wolf-boy in Sendak’s story who imagines himself taming wild beasts with his powerful “No!”

After fifty years, Where the Wild Things Are is still unsurpassed. It’s beautiful; it’s lucid; it’s funny, it’s warm; it’s real. And when I first read it to Marty, it made me cry.

Did I mention that I’d just had a baby? Blame it on the hormones, then, but in Max’s struggle with authority and his sojourn in the wilderness I saw a reflection of my suddenly rough relationship with my sweet son.

Marty’s Jekyll-and-Hyde act took us by surprise. Until recently our firstborn had been cheerful and eager to please. Now, having discovered that he can refuse to cooperate, he seems compelled to do so, even when cooperating would bring him pleasure. He wants to climb the stairs by himself—“Marty do it!”—but when we set him down, he goes slack, draping himself across the landing. The urge to assert his...

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About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.