Throughout adolescence and young adulthood, my daughter was regaled with stories of her infancy and toddlerhood by people who were adults at the time. The tales always came around to what a pain in the arse she was when it came to sleep. She was. For example, my wife worked one night a week, and I had to plan out that evening like a Cook's tour to get her to sleep. Not until she was well up into toddlerhood would she go to sleep for me at all, except in the car. So I planned out car expeditions that left home soon after supper and followed every byway of Essex County, arriving home simultaneously with my wife.
Her former Infant-Toddler teachers told even more harrowing tales of Em's agitation--in the political sense--at nap time. Other babies were quite content to nod off and nap for an hour or two in the afternoon. As far as anyone can remember, Em never napped at all. She could be persuaded at times to lie down, but mostly she sat or stood in the crib and tried to get other kids to wake up and play with her. Sometimes she succeeded, and pandemonium broke loose.
At one point in her acutely sleep-deprived years (from about 14 to 24) she thought about these stories and said "God, what a damn fool I was!" More recently, she took it on herself to make certain that the parental units were aware of the latest thing in parenting lit, Go the F**k to Sleep
.* For Em, parenting is a spectator sport, so she finds the book hilarious in the abstract. However, she relates to it very deeply in the context of those tales from her early childhood: as in deeply, hysterically funny.
I suggest this is one in yo face for that species of self-important prude who feels called upon to protest every bit of self-reflective parenting humour. The more insightful and self-revelatory it is, the louder they protest. This is the opinion of a young woman who caused this sort of trouble as a toddler, is delighted about it, and doesn't mind turning things around for a laugh. Most of the critics would find their attitudes proscribed by the Consumer Products Safety Commission were they inanimate objects. Then there's Eric Metaxas, a christian who is garnering some un-christ-like free press for his book
. (Forget about that co-author/illustrator person, Nancy Tillman.) Sorry, Eric, parody is protected speech, for one thing: unless you're a christian possessed of a certain level of self-importance. For another, It's Time to Sleep, My Love
belongs to a sub-category of children's books that is, to be nice, heavily cross-pollinated.** Others have made the same observations about Nancy Tillman's oeuvre
, minus the self-righteousness. One can't parody the genre without engaging in the cross-pollination process.
Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff
, mercilessly skewered the hypocrisy of the American media about American family life. We see this in the (so far) failed effort to make Go the F**k to Sleep
"controversial" instead of funny. Perhaps with that effort running out of gas, Good Morning America
has inflated a new prude balloon: young mothers, getting together (terrible!) and having a glass of wine (utter horrors!)
Those even passingly acquainted with my wife know that she drinks about two glasses of wine a week. She may not have much taste for the vine, but she is acutely sensitive to double standards. Why is it, she asked, we haven't heard the same complaint about dads bringing their toddler children to the ballpark and hoisting a few beers?
Lest one buy into the idea that this is the end of civilisation as we know it, consider the good old days about a century ago, as related by my maternal grandmother. Then, similar city occasions meant that mom dragged her brood to the local saloon, got shit-faced, and probably quieted her little darlings by getting them drunk as well. Probably helps explain the life expectancies back then, but it's hypocritical crap to suggest a parallel.
Enough: I'm going the fuck to sleep.
* I'm not censoring. That's what the f**k it's called.
**Much of childrens' lit is disturbingly derivative, more a lack of imagination or nerve than any case of plagiarism. If you want to read stunningly original kid lit and see what can be done in this genre, I suggest Fernando Krahn
's books for children.
Labels: Go the F**k to Sleep, hypocrisy, media criticism, parenting