October 8, 2017

Kidding Around with Adam Mansbach

“You probably should not read it to your children.”

Go the F*ck to Sleep

With 284,000,000 search results on Google, a shout out in New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, and the #1 spot on Amazon, Go the F*ck to Sleep is the talk of the publishing industry. And it doesn’t even come out until October!

Is this the beginning of a new trend in “kidding around” lit for parents? A few other irreverent series have made their way to bookshelves and gift stores in the past (see below). Why is this book getting so much attention? And why now? Are parents really so fed up? Or have we all recovered a sense of humor about parenting? Regardless, Go the F*ck to Sleep provides a brilliant burst of levity, and people are responding favorably.

I was introduced to Go the F*ck to Sleep when several of my friends sent the pdf version that has been circling email chains for the last few months. As a children’s book author and WNK blogger, they thought it was perfect for me. They also admitted the story reflects their own bedtime struggles.

In a recent “Today” show interview author Adam Mansbach said, “Despite the tremendous culture of parenting there’s a lot that doesn’t get talked about. Hopefully, the honesty of this book will open up the conversation. These are legitimate ways that we feel, and we should laugh about it, and be honest about these tribulations.”

As with most widely appealing humor, people seem to be laughing because the joke is on all of us, and is born from a seed of truth.

I found the book to be worthy of the response. It’s well written, and the viral contagion is as much a reflection of the authors talent and honesty as it is just plain good timing. People are obviously ready for a little break from Baby Einsteining, and humor, we are reminded, is always a good way to shine a light into some shadowed cracks and get people talking. And maybe if parents readily share simple daily struggles, fewer among us will feel alienated by perceived failings at a job that may be too often advertised as glorious and rewarding? Go the F*ck to Sleep is a breath of fresh, funny air, because we all know, it’s really not that easy.

Go the F*ck to Sleep by Adam Manbach from Akashic Books:

“Go the Fuck to Sleep is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don’t always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, California Book Award-winning author Adam Mansbach’s verses perfectly capture the familiar–and unspoken–tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. In the process, they open up a conversation about parenting, granting us permission to admit our frustrations, and laugh at their absurdity. With illustrations by Ricardo Cortes, Go the Fuck to Sleep is beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny–a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children.”

Three-Martini Family Vacation by Christie Mellor from Chronicle Books:

Three-Martini Family Vacation

“Chill the glasses! The author of the wildly successful Three-Martini Playdate is back with more irreverent and useful advice about life with children. Wickedly funny essays offer helpful advice on harnessing the energy of toddlers-gone-wild: on vacation, out to dinner, even just when grandmother stops by for a visit. Parents will relearn the art of traveling, socializing, and eating out like adults . . . sometimes with well-behaved children in tow. In dozens of short, kicky chapters like Cocktail Parties: Actually for Grown-ups…gently reminds parents that family vacations can truly be fun.”

Baby Be of Use Series by Lisa Brown from McSweeney’s:

Baby Be of Use

“With the Baby Be of Use Six-Book Bundle, you’ve got your domestic bases covered. Between naps and “turning over,” your baby can learn his or her way around banking, car repair, breakfast preparation, drink-mixing, wedding planning, and romantic matchmaking. Through basic shapes and colors, these board books teach your precious little angels to be useful at long last. And why shouldn’t they help a little around the house?”

Kiddie (Free) Lit

Ever wonder...

Doing my best Andy Rooney impersonation:

Did you ever notice how almost every book for women these days is about weddings and babies? I remember when women couldn’t even have books.

OK enough with the old man voice. I’ve been noticing a recurring theme with many of my steamy beach reads that is not so sexy – the main characters can’t decide if they should have kids or NOT! The stories are not the fun and tempting reads that the back cover teases. These fence-sitting literary couples struggle to find themselves and survive debt, betrayal and various inane obstacles only to come together and live happily ever after. Then they go and ruin things by making baby plans.

The two chick-lit novels below include the “Should we? Or shouldn’t we?” theme:
Baby Proof by Emily Giffen

Fans love her sorbet colored titles on marriage and the great void that happens next. In this story, Ben, the husband who vowed he’d live a childfree life suddenly wakes up one day and – yikes — changes his mind. Now what?
Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Four million readers loved The Nanny Diaries but when Nanny returned more people went meh? Not so much. Nan is back and fate has her crossing paths with her former charges, but can she handle a little cutie pie of her own? And will it tear her against-all-odds relationship apart?

A friend of mine mentioned that the childfree conundrum makes an appearance in Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. (A pre-Oprah Book Club copy is sitting on my shelf.) Franzen would likely freak out if he discovered his name on the same page as “beach read” or “chick lit” or “books for women”. Which brings me back to Andy Rooney…

Did you ever notice that people without kids have way too much time to read books?

Dr. Suess Didn’t Have Kids

“You make ’em. I’ll amuse ’em.” – Dr. Seuss

Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendack, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott and Dr. Suess didn’t have kids. And I’m adding myself to this esteemed list of childfree children’s book authors.

How is it possible that such clever icons of the children’s literary world had the ability to connect to kids across generations without having children of their own? How could they understand kids without raising them? Very simple, they were once kids, too. Perhaps because these childless adults never abandoned a child’s point of view, they held close to childhood memories and fantasies and magically preserved the imaginary realm of talking animals and invented words.  Would these authors have the same stories to tell if their priorities were feeding young mouths instead of young minds? Would late nights and diaper duty have sapped their creative energy and capacity to envision Sneeches, Wild Things and truffula trees?

Recently, I asked a parent friend of mine if she would have a pediatrician who didn’t have kids, or an ob/gyn who didn’t have kids, or even a teacher who didn’t have kids. Did it make a difference? She said it did in the case of the pediatrician, which caught me a bit until I realized that I required a doctor with an innie instead of an outie when it came to gynecological matters.

Jo Frost, TV’s SuperNanny, has reared plenty of kids but still isn’t a parent herself. So did this sharpen her skills or limit her adeptness? The SuperNanny has millions of television viewers each week and millions more buying her books on parenting and childrearing techniques.

Raffi, the superstar musical maestro of the preschool set, has sold over 8 million albums. He too is childfree. In these cases their expertise and success has nothing to do with being a progenitor.

Is it a coincidence that my favorite teachers were not parents? What was it that made them so attractive to me? Was it their dedication to children even if they didn’t have little ones at home? Was I a competent teacher even if I didn’t have offspring? Does having children really make a difference when you teach, entertain or care for children? Or is it possible that, just maybe, once you become a parent you stop living like a child?


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