We're told that picture books should go easy on the morals; if you beat kids over the head with a lesson they're supposed to learn, you'll take the fun out of reading. But I must have been loaded with teacher genes from the get-go 'cause a lot of my favorites are a tiny bit didactic. I loved A Fish Out of Water. The idea that a fish could grow gigantic (or in real life - go belly-up) from overfeeding was a revelation to me. How was it possible to love a pet to death? Terrifying that - in giving him too much of a good thing - I could smother him with love or floating flakes of nutrition or both.
I was probably not at too much risk here, in reality. I'm not a creature of routine, so the idea of a regular feeding time - for me or said pets - is a bit of a burden. I always assume babies will cry when they're hungry, too, and they usually do. (This mentality does not bode well for the poor plants on my desk who droop in silent supplication, praying I will glance up and notice their desperation for w-a-a-t-e-r.)
I did manage to raise two incredibly cool children, somehow, who do not evidence any lasting effects of the benign neglect to which they were subjected so maybe the fish book lesson was worthwhile. I like to think my "hands-off" attitude benefitted them; I was never the kind of parent who snooped in their rooms or asked a million questions, or tried to live vicariously through them. I guess I was really lucky that they made it easy to trust them (not that they never did anything wrong; they are very real velveteen rabbits.) This would be a good spot for one of those silly quotes about giving your children wings as well as roots, but P.D. Eastman made it much simpler:
"Never feed him too much
Never more than a spot
Or something may happen
You never know what!