Maurice [Sendak] says: “People say, ‘Oh, Mr. Sendak. I wish I were in touch with my childhood self, like you!’ As if it were all quaint and succulent, like Peter Pan. Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth! … In reality, childhood is deep and rich … I remember my own childhood vividly … I knew terrible things … but I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew … it would scare them.”
Maurice liked to tell the story of the daughter of a friend who was at school near the World Trade Center when the towers fell. She told her father that she saw butterflies on the building as the towers collapsed. Later she admitted that they weren’t butterflies, they were people jumping, but she didn’t want to upset her father by letting him know that she knew. Children protect their parents, which is the funny part of childhood that slips away from us, the awful knowledge it contains.
Kaitie Roiphe, The Wildest Rumpus;Maurice Sendak and the Art of Death, The Atlantic , 7 March 2016