Children’s books have morals for adults, too

I think we can learn a lot from children’s books.

I suppose that’s one of the reasons why people write them in the first place, to instruct kids.

I am a big fan of Dr. Seuss, as I find his stories have significance on various levels. You can read them on the surface and look at the wacky pictures and be entertained. Then, you can also look a little closer and find a deeper meaning.

Sometimes I think the messages are easier to digest when they are given to us in a children’s story; they seem less threatening and confrontational.

If you know you’re reading something that’s supposed to be good for you, then you could be concerned about what you are going to get out of it or even be primed to disagree.

But if you’re having fun, reading a cute tale, then the moral of the story might sneak up on you before you realize it.

It’s kind of like how you can trick your body into exercising by having fun. Before you know it, you’ve burned a couple hundred calories.

One of the Dr. Seuss stories that really got to me as a kid was “The Zax.”

There was a north-going Zax and a south-going Zax who got stuck in their tracks.

They met face to face, and neither would budge to either side to get around the other. This meant neither Zax could continue the mission of making tracks.

They were so stubborn that they stayed there forever. As the countryside changed, a freeway bypass was built around them because they were still there, unmoved, in a standoff.

The obvious analogy for us as adults is that extreme inflexibility leads to being stuck — complete stagnation — with your purpose in life coming to a grinding halt.

I really struggled with trying to wrap my child’s brain around this one. If they couldn’t step to the right or the left, why couldn’t one of them leapfrog over the other?

Then if that would cause an argument as to who had to stoop down. They could do it twice, with each one having the chance to be the leaper.

(But then I guess they would have to do it three times; otherwise, they’d be facing back the way they came.)

Or, if they grabbed each other’s waists, they could do a swing dance kind of move around each other.

It wouldn’t be stepping to either side (they could plant their feet on the other side of the opposing Zax, keeping them in line with their own previous tracks). Then they could flip around each other quickly and be on their merry way.

I suppose then there’s still the issue that they might end up facing the wrong direction even briefly, which might be a problem.

But so what? You’ve been making tracks all this time, and you’re going to throw away all your work just because you have an obstacle?

What’s so wrong with a small step to the side or a swing around that leaves you facing backward for a moment?

Personally I’d vote for the leapfrog, as this would maintain the purity of the line more than the other options.

I wouldn’t mind being the one who was leapfrogged over if it meant I could reach my goal.

Let’s just say if you were standing between me and pizza, I wouldn’t have a problem even crawling between your feet. I guess it all depends on your priorities.

To this day, I still puzzle about possible solutions to the Zax issue.

(Like, if they were particularly limber, then how about if they each stood on their right legs, then they could lift the left one up and over the other Zax? Nobody steps aside, no facing backward, no arguments about who has to be the bottom frog. But this assumes a ballet background, and I don’t know that much about Zax culture.)

I guess any of these suggestions would only work if both Zax (Zaxes?) were willing to compromise. No matter how many crazy ideas one of them came up with, it all would be in vain if the other wouldn’t cooperate or even listen. So the question we need to ask ourselves is, would we rather be right or further down the path toward our goal?

I certainly need to listen to my own advice and remember to read stories like these that point out the ridiculousness of terminal rigidity.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website,