“And what would you do
If you met a Jiboo?”
I’m reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Thinks You Can Think for our bedtime story, at Rondel’s request, and because the baby’s already sleeping instead of tiredly fussing in my lap, I’m letting the boys’ comments and questions slow the story down. I pause here to let them answer the question posed by the book, a dark shadowy creature standing on a moonlit street on the pages before us.
“I would knock it over!” Rondel proclaims.
“What if it is friendly?” I ask. “Do you think Jiboos are friendly or scary?”
Rondel looks at me uncertainly, pondering.
“Maybe if they are friendly they like playing games, so you can knock them over in a fun way,” I suggest.
“No, they don’t like games. They don’t like anything.” Rondel declares.
“What do they do?” I ask. “Do they chase people and gobble them up?”
He nods, solemnly (this isn’t our first time through the book… he’s decided Jiboos are man-eaters long before now).
“That’s scary!” I say. “I would run away and hide, then, if I saw a Jiboo.”
“I would take its head off so it couldn’t eat anyone!”
“Wow, you are so brave! You would be the hero, then – you would rescue everyone from being eaten by the Jiboo!”
“I am brave!” His shoulders lift a little – I can see the idea of being the brave hero, the defender of the weak, taking root in his mind; he is thinking about the goodness of force when used for justice and protection, though of course not in so many words.
I used to be uneasy discussing violence and physical force with the boys. Well, to be honest, I still am uncomfortable with it. I don’t want them to rely on violence to solve their problems or settle their disputes, and I definitely don’t want them glorifying brute force. But I do want them to grow up into men who intervene when a woman is harassed or objectified, who protect the weak, who stand up for the oppressed, who would be willing to lay down their lives for the innocent. So when they express courage in the service of others, even if it’s in very physical ways or just in their hypothetical imaginary worlds, I want to encourage that. We can dive into the nuances of non-violence as they get older and see that power comes in many forms. For now, they can fight the Jiboos to protect those who can’t fight for themselves.