9th August, 2011 - Posted by admin - No Comments
The bedtime book for exhausted parents, “Go the F**k to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach, was a hit before it was even published, thanks to (apparently unintentional) viral marketing, including a reading on YouTube by Samuel L Jackson. Using expletives many parents wouldn’t dream of admitting to uttering near the ears of their dream-less little ones, the book is a satire on bedtime story books using the internal monologue of the increasingly frustrated parent.
While many find it amusing and insightful – many parents will laugh knowingly, with the full awareness that they have had similar internal thoughts themselves, others have stated that the book is indicative of a generation of parents who, when faced with their inevitable failure at being “perfect (yuppie) parents” (with lives that revolve around their children and therefore (and it is pertinent to the debate, apparently) associated lack of sex lives). The book, apparently, is funny only to these sorts of parents – “those who are radically subjugating themselves to a certain kind of kid-centered drabness” “We are” Kate Roiphe goes on to say “to blame for our own self-sacrifice, and if we are being honest and precise, it’s not exactly self-sacrifice, tinged as it is with vanity, with pride in our good behavior, with a certain showiness in our parenting, with self-congratulation.” In the book the father demonstrates a sweet, child-orientated approach (although his internal monologue is a little potty-mouthed) – he isn’t letting his child cry it out, abandoning him/her to the darkness, he is cuddling, reading, answering questions, collecting glasses of water and getting teddybears. Ok, maybe not getting teddybears:
(“The tiger reclines in the simmering jungle.
The sparrow has silenced her cheep.
F**k your stuffed bear, I’m not getting you shit.
Close your eyes. Cut the crap. Sleep.”)
But you shouldn’t be get angry at your child, Roiphe suggests, hire a babysitter and have more sex.
Jill Filipovacagrees with Roiphe’s sentiment- she states that she too is sceptical of “helicopter parents” who put their child before themselves at all costs and define themselves first and foremost as mothers whose children are the centre of their universe. However, she also feels (as do I) that Roiphe is reading a little too much into the book….
But others have found themselves uncomfortable reading the book. It is not respectful of the child, certainly, and many (such as Karen Spears Zacharias writing for CNN ) do not like violent words associated with children and feel that the language of the book portrays all to clearly the violent, loveless homes many children are forced to go to sleep in.
Two things strike me here. Firstly, this idea that only the most child-centred of parents will find this book funny – as if only these parents will have a child who will refuse to sleep? Or only these parents will be frustrated by that? I don’t think either is true – you can be the most routined of families or the most child-led, at some point, I would bet, you will have a child who will not sleep when you want him/her to.
Secondly, there seems to be an implication that we shouldn’t find a book like this funny – perhaps it’s the swear words, perhaps it’s because it makes some people uncomfortable to admit that, in their head at least, they are swearing at their child. And to laugh at the book is to admit you do that. Some, like Zacharias, feel that swearing and children should never mix, not in your head and certainly not in a book that admits what is in your head.
Personally, I think this book will strike a chord with almost all parents. And in doing so normalises the experience of being a frustrated parent. And that can only be a good thing. After all, we have all been there.