I’ve never been a huge reader, but having kids has rekindled my love of the printed word, albeit, yes, the kind with pictures. And with dozens of library armfuls, a dazzling mastery of lifty-flap books, and approximately three-quarters of the Mo Willems catalogue under my belt, I’ve concluded that children’s books are like anything else—a few winners, and a whole lot of losers.
I can handle a bad book, especially when it’s twenty-six pages long. I can even deal with the inexplicably high ratio of farm-themed literature (Seriously, aren’t these a bit antiquated? And do babies on actual farms read them, or do they just go outside?). But we’ve come across one or two that we just philosophically disagree with. These are the ones I want to talk about. One in particular.
I don’t even know where this book came from. Since we became parents, our place has become a giant vortex, sucking in everything from used onesies to Halloween costumes for eight year-olds, and sprawling them across the apartment. It could have come from anywhere; it could have always been there.
I guess I won’t mention the name of the book, since I’m about to rip it to pieces. I didn’t even realize how stupid it was until I overheard my wife reading it to Bub a couple months ago.
So basically, it tells the story of a mother (though it is written by a man) who has a child whom she basically ignores, and the kid is a real terror, lacking all semblance of discipline or morality. He basically drives her crazy, but then, every night, when he falls asleep, she sneaks into his room, cuddles him and whispers a cheesy love rhyme.
Moral? I let you do whatever you want, and I can’t stand what you’ve become. I am completely unfit in every capacity to be a parental unit. But you are cute when you’re asleep. You know, the one time I can actually relate to you. I suppose it’s open to interpretation.
But then it gets weird. The kid grows up. The parental struggles continue, but through the years, she still sneaks into his bed, as a teenager (awkward) to cuddle him and whispers those sweet nothings. So the guy gets married, has his own kid, and she STILL sneaks into his bed. Um, hello, wife, don’t mind me, I just have a few trite words to whisper to your husband while he sleeps, no biggie. Bizarre, right?
Anyway, eventually she gets too old to cuddle him, and demands (DEMANDS) her son come bid her adieu. So of course he does, and, predictably, crawls into her bed, coddles her, and says the same words to her. Then he goes home and does the same thing to his kid. Even that little hint at a sequel made me throw up in my mouth a little. Mostly because parenting is all about sacrifice, and this woman seemingly made zero, yet was parading around like mother of the year. Not to mention the whole co-sleeping-into-his-forties thing.
When she finished the book, we looked at each other, realized what had to be done. The book would have to be carried into the belly of Mount Doom and destroyed. But as I’m not a big fan of book burning, we ultimately did not incinerate it. The only quest I went on was the recycling bin in the alley. I don’t want my kids taking away that it’s okay to be lawless, disrepectful monsters, not to mention the mental image of Daddy crawling in their beds when they’re fifty.
People say ‘Hey, YOU should write a kids book.’ I think all writers believe deep down it could well be their publishing meal ticket; we all harbor at least one premise that involves a rare animal overcoming insurmountable obstacles. But it’s not that easy; not to mention, if I were to actually write one, it would be a lot like that Go the F*** to Sleep, only less rhymy, less creative. I’m happy to leave it to the experts. I’ll just be previewing everything first before it gets in the rotation.