No, no, that’s not directed at Daniel. Even though the expletive is one of my favorite words. What can I say? As a word geek/former English major, I consider the F word to be deliciously descriptive. But I digress as usual. If you are A) a parent of small, sometimes sleep-avoiding children and B) not under a rock, you’ve probably heard of and/or read Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep, a delightful children’s book on the frustration many parents experience at bedtime.
J and I read it and just guffawed. Truly. Because unless you have a child that is a perfect sleeper (and I think you are a liar), you’ve been there. Who can’t empathize? We’ve all had those nights in which Precious One just.won’t.close.his/her.eyes and it’s 10pm or later and your child could be putting you to bed. The book is meant to be tongue-and-cheek and speak to one of the most frustrating experiences a parent can have: the dreaded bedtime.
It’s funny. It speaks to the frustration many parents experience. And it has an audio version read by Samuel L. Jackson. Really, what’s not to like? Who couldn’t like it? Apparently, there are some extremely humorLESS people out there.
If you peruse the Amazon reviews, there are many calling the book “mean-spirited” and an example of what is wrong with parenting today. Then last week, CNN published an article declaring the book “not funny.” Chief allegations include that it is demeaning to children and that children are marginalized groups on par with minorities and other ethnicities–just imagine the outrage if this book had been written about them. In the article, one of the outraged parents happens to be a prosecutor who was involved with a high-profile child murder case who finds the books “unsettling” because she doesn’t like “violent language in association with children.”
And then came Twitter. I was following someone who posted a negative post on the book, echoing how unfunny and disturbing it was. As I read more of her blog, I discovered that she is pro-spanking although her spanking is NOT abuse; it is a gentle, corrective touch NOT administered in anger. Reality check: this book is horrifying, yet you support spanking??? Dear readers, I promptly unfollowed her b/c clearly, we do not share the same philosophy. Or planet. Or galaxy.
Ok, seriously???? Why the outcry about this book? First of all, it is written like a children’s book but it isn’t. What parent would ever read this book to their children? Has parenting become so serious and dour that we can’t even share a laugh over a feeling we’ve all likely experienced in relation to bed time (unless you are freaking Mother Theresa–who never had kids BTW b/c she was a NUN)? I would argue that books like this lessen the frustration parents feel and provide them an outlet so they don’t, you know, lash out at their kids.
Is it mean-spirited? I don’t think so. My son is currently in a phase in which he is sleeping well but there have been many nights in the last few weeks when he thought that 10pm was a dandy bed time. Me? Not so much. Don’t I want the little darling to go to sleep so I can go to sleep, or do laundry or chat with J? What’s wrong with that? He is 2. He needs his sleep b/c we still get up at the same time regardless of his bedtime. You know, because I (whisper) work. And like it.
Parenting is hard. We all know this. J and I are only 2 years into this parenting gig and so are relatively newbies at it but even we have realized it is hard work. I interpret this backlash to the book as the latest in the camp of idealizing parenthood and glossing over or outright ignoring the fact that there are a lot of parts of it that are difficult and quite unpleasant. It’s the same sort of situation that makes new mothers worry they are horrible because they hear only how wonderful and fulfilling children are while they are pregnant and then wonder if they are unfit because the 18th viewing of Hero of the Rails over the weekend to make them conjure up visions of Munch’s The Scream (um speaking hypothetically) and wow, babies and children are exhausting and sometimes little snots.
So seriously, if you have a sense of humor, read the book and enjoy it. You aren’t a horrible person. Your children won’t feel endangered. However, you might feel some relief. Because you’re not perfect and that’s ok.