Having raised two wild boys, I still get choked up recalling Sendak’s "Where the Wild Things Are" – even though I would stubbornly change one of his famous 338 words of the story to my liking: Instead of “Let the wild rumpus start!” I always said “Let the wild rumpus begin!” which sounded better to my ear, more gentle to the boys I was trying to quiet. In other words, “Let’s not let the wild rumpus start, let’s just read about it.”
My oldest son, Robin, was truly a spinning top who got more and more wound up when he began to get tired. He certainly made “mischief of one kind and another.” Wriggling in my lap or sitting beside me under my mother wing, he was my Max (the main character of Wild Things) to read to and reassure that even if he did make a “rumpus” -- a crazy fun word -- that required a correction and made him angry, I would never be so far from him that he didn’t sense my presence.
My younger son, Jake, was not as physically active but such an intense child that I knew he really did go somewhere else in his mind when he got into trouble. I knew he was a good candidate for staring into the wild things’ yellow eyes without blinking, and for the overwhelming power and responsibility and fear that comes when others call you “the most wild thing of all,” and “the king of all wild things.”
I wanted both my sons to know that no matter how far away they strayed from me and my expectations, they could always sail “back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day” into the night of their very own room. They might not find a hot meal there, but they would find a mom who could dial Pizza Hut. And who loved them very much no matter what and always will.
And that is why I cried almost every time I read it, though I had to hide it from the boys. And why today I let the tears roll because I am so grateful to Maurice Sendak for capturing the struggle of children, especially boys, to be fearless and adventuresome while still needing their moms.