Elysha and I took Charlie to see Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch last weekend. It’s a great film, not unlike the cartoon that we grew up watching on television. And I’ve always thought it was a pretty brilliant story:
Christmas is stolen from the Whos, but still they gather and sing on Christmas day, just as joyously as any other Christmas, causing the Grinch’s heart to grow two sizes larger.
Here’s an unexpected twist in this version that I adored:
Little Cindy Lou Woo, the child who encounters the Grinch on Christmas Eve, is the child of a single mother. Cindy Lou is worried that her mother works too hard and has no time for herself, so she tries to meet Santa on Christmas Eve to ask if he might find a way to help her mom work less.
Instead she meets the Grinch.
Did you see that?
There’s no attempt in this film to find Mom a spouse or a love interest. No attempt reunite father and mother. In fact, there is never a mention of a father. We have no idea if Cindy Lou’s parents are divorced or if she is adopted or if her father died or if she’s the product of artificial insemination via an anonymous Who donor.
In an unexpected but much appreciated twist, we have a single mother who is not broken or incomplete or failing or even unhappy because she is single. Instead, we are given the portrait of a highly effective mother who is not in need of a man.
Yes, she is frazzled at times. A little overworked. Maybe even exhausted from time to time. But I hear parents complain every day about the struggles of parenthood.
A little too much sometimes.
Cindy Lou’s mother is no different.
I’ve often argued that a two adult household is ideal for raising children, simply because two heads are better than one. There have been many times in our years as parents that Elysha and I have stopped the other from making some silly or stupid parental mistake.
It’s always good to have a system of checks and balances whenever possible.
But I’ve also argued that this two adult household need not be a father and mother. Two fathers or two mothers are just as good. Also, a single mother with an aunt or uncle would be fine. Or a father and his best friend. Or a mother and her old college roommate. Or two grandparents raising their grandchild.
I think that in most cases, two responsible parents - in any combination - are probably better than one simply because of numbers, but I also think that single moms and single dads can kick some parenting ass, too.
As Cindy Lou Who’s mother clearly does.
More importantly, I don’t think that every single mother or single father is in need of a spouse. And I don’t think that every single mother or single father who is portrayed in film, television, or books needs to be presented as incomplete, broken, or in need of romantic love. We don’t need the children of single parents constantly portrayed as trying to find love for their loveless mothers or fathers.
This has all been done before, and honestly, it wasn’t especially good the first time.
The Parent Trap was predicable and sucky. Both times.
Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch offers audiences the opportunity to watch a kickass single mom do her job very well, absent of any pining over love lost or love never found.
I like that. I think it’s smart and new and fresh and probably a solidly feminist way of looking at the world.
I’m glad my son saw that kickass single mom kicking some parenting ass.