A previously unpublished book by Dr. Seuss was recently published, bringing much pleasure to children and parents.

An earlier book by Dr. Seuss, “The Cat in the Hat,” played a significant role in the way children learned to read. At the time of its publication, the content of beginning books for readers – “see Jane run” – did little to motivate children to learn to read. Dr. Seuss, on the other hand, with his rhyming and fantasy drawings, produced books to which children could relate and parents could enjoy reading aloud.

Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss’ real name, died in 1991, but “What Pet Should I Get?” was found among his work projects somewhat more than a year ago. A note from the publisher in the book describes his style of preparing new books that enabled them to see how far along he was with this book and what still had to be completed for publication.

Some detective work led to the conclusion that “What Pet Should I Get?” was written in the same general time period as “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue.” The children in the two books look the same, and the thought is that the unfinished book was the precursor to “One Fish.” There is much speculation about why this book was put aside by the author and not brought to publication.

Dr. Seuss’ writing speaks to children’s imagination and dilemmas. For whatever reason he put it aside, “What Pet Should I Get?” evokes a classic dilemma of childhood with which both children and parents can identify. The children in the story have been told they can get one pet but when they visit the pet shop they see so many wonderful choices – including those of the author’s imagination – that they can’t make up their minds.

Which flavor ice cream should I choose, which toy do I want, which shirt should I wear? Parents lose their minds waiting for their children to make up theirs in these everyday scenarios. The boy in the story says, “We could only pick one. That is what my dad said. But how could I make up that mind in my head?” and “It is something to make a mind up.”

The pressure the children are feeling to decide is expressed in the voices of their parents in their heads. They would like to pick several but “dad would be mad.” Dad might not pay for some choices, mom might like one that fits in a small space, and mom warned them to be home by noon. In the end they accept, “We can only have one. If we do not choose we will end up with NONE.” That sounds like something a parent might threaten.

Why is it so hard for children to make up their minds? Making up your mind means making a choice, and choosing means giving something up. What you are giving up seems as desirable as what you are getting. You have to decide what you want most.

Children are still learning to accept that and they don’t yet understand why they can’t have it all.

“Having it all.” That sounds familiar. It is not only children who have a hard time making a choice. Most of us can relate to how hard it is at times to choose – to accept that getting something also means giving up something. This should help us have empathy for our children when they can’t decide, and we feel like saying – or screaming – MAKE UP YOUR MIND!

It is not surprising that Dr. Seuss speaks to parents as well as children.

Elaine Heffner, LCSW, Ed.D., has written for Parents Magazine, Fox.com, Redbook, Disney online and PBS Parents, as well as other publications. She has appeared on PBS, ABC, Fox TV and other networks. Dr. Heffner is the author of “Goodenoughmothering: The Best of the Blog,” as well as “Mothering: The Emotional Experience of Motherhood after Freud and Feminism.” She is a psychotherapist and parent educator in private practice, as well as a senior lecturer of education in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Dr. Heffner was a co-founder and served as director of the Nursery School Treatment Center at Payne Whitney Clinic, New York Hospital. And she blogs at goodenoughmothering.com.