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Fatherhood as Vocation in Richard Scarry’s ‘The Bunny Book’

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The Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, Little Golden Book“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question we are routinely asked as youngsters, with the more cliché responses ranging from “fireman” to “astronaut” to “explorer.”

Yet, as I’ve argued previously, we needn’t limit such contemplations to work outside of the home. As Karen Swallow Prior recently noted, using terminology from a Knot Yet study, family needn’t be viewed as a “capstone” to personal achievement, but should instead be seen as a “cornerstone” — an anchor and foundation from which those who are called to marry and have children will find increased fulfillment and vocational clarity, not less.

The other night, I was reading Richard Scarry’s The Bunny Book to my two toddlers, and I was struck by how clearly and effectively this same message was conveyed. The takeaway: When we think about work and vocation, we must also think about family.

The story begins with a daddy bunny tossing his baby in the air, asking that infamous question: “What will our baby be when he grows up?”

The book proceeds to query a host of other family members, each of whom have their own opinions about baby bunny’s future. Mother thinks he’ll be a policeman. Daddy thinks he’ll be a circus clown. 

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, policeman, circus clown

Cousin thinks he’ll be a doctor. Aunty thinks he’ll be a lifeguard.

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, doctor, lifeguard

Sister thinks he’ll be an airplane pilot. Great aunt bunny thinks he’ll be a fireman.

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, airplane, fireman

The story continues as such, with each hypothetical eventually stifled by a similar refrain: “But the baby bunny did not want to be a doctor or a lifeguard or a farmer (etc.).”

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, farmer, tractor, dad

By the end, we discover the secret. He, too, will be a daddy rabbit, one who loves his children and meets their needs.

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, farmer, running, dad

And let’s not forget books and birthdays.

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry, birthday, book

The book concludes as the future daddy rabbit tucks his children into bed at night, providing an appropriate bookend. Though putting our children to bed may seem like a simple, nightly ritual — separate and distinct from our daily grind in the workplace — such a routine act aptly demonstrates the normative, formative impact that fatherhood has on all we do. For me, putting my kids to bed is a daily reminder of where responsibility ultimately rests and how value is ultimately defined.

Bunny Book, Richard Scarry

Surely this bunny will be more than a daddy. All of that provision must, after all, come from somewhere. But this type of build-up and conclusion serves as a helpful illustration that, although the world around us may be telling us to achieve x, y, and z, many of us are called, first and foremost, to our families.

Joseph Sunde Joseph Sunde is a writer and project coordinator for the Acton Institute, serving as editor of the Letters to the Exiles blog and content manager of the Oikonomia channel at Patheos.com. He is the founder of Remnant Culture and was a longtime contributor to AEI's Values & Capitalism project. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Mission:Work, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

Comments

  • My kids and I read this book frequently. I agree with Mr. Sunde’s reading of its importance. When a man becomes a husband, being a husband becomes his most important job. When a man becomes a father, being a father then becomes his most important job.

    Excellent post, Mr. Sunde.

  • This is good stuff. Love daddy bunny’s pipe as well.

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