To which I say:
Hey Ms Zacharias
Lighten the F*ck Up
Now, I am the last person to find anything humorous about child abuse and neglect. My time managing the Central Registry for Child Abuse and Neglect for the State of New Hampshire would insure that I know more about how parents and family members abuse and neglect children than any one person should. Believe me, I know the deep, dark and dirty details of the creative ways children can be terrorized by the adults that should be protecting them.
But this book? Not really one of them.
This book strikes at the heart of the perfection paradigm in which many American parents find themselves squarely ensconced. The juggle of what we are being told is "best" for our children...often at the expense of our own mental health and sanity.
It hits the sweet spot of the deconstruction of who we were before children and who we are now, as parents. That transformation is not always so magical, and certainly rarely easy. Sure, for some it might be...but for myself and many, many of my friends? Not so much.
Furthermore, as a parent of a child who - and I kid you not - did not sleep through the night until she was Ten, the exhaustion of being a parent is doubled when you have a child who won't sleep. For while the child seems to be able to bounce right back, the adult grows more and more weak without proper sleep.
So, when you do what the books and the pediatricians and everyone else tells you should be the way to get your child to sleep? Bath time routine? Book reading? Saying good night and tucking in? And you child stands up and literally screams until you come back, well what then? Do the vast majority of parents beat their children and use obscenities at them in a manner which would indicate true abuse? No, I don't think so.
Take my brother and sister in law who have a 2 year old son, the prime age depicted in Mansbach's book. When I sent my brother the audio book link with Samuel L Jackson reading it, he immediately emailed me a story of how his son had waylaid bedtime for nearly 2 hours the previous night with cries of needing to use the bathroom, being so dehydrated he was on the verge of collapse and the myriad of other gimmicks our children learn to put off closing their eyes.
Abusive? Was laughing at the book and the language in the book an indication that my brother is an abusive parent? No, of course not. It was a laugh in recognition of the things that rarely get discussed in the ramp up before the baby bomb goes off in your previously well ordered life.
Is this "demeaning" to children? Hardly. What it does do is recognize the lengths to which many parents go to Do the RIGHT thing, even as they are falling asleep ( or letting their marriage fall apart because they are getting zero time together).
The second point, thinly disguised, in this CNN article was one regarding the "decline" of reading to children. Oh wait, here let me quote it:
Putting kids to bed can be a challenge, and it may be an even bigger problem for this generation of parents because the sacred bedtime ritual of reading to children has gone away.
Um? What? Sacred bedtime ritual? Hang on a minute while I laugh my ass off. I certainly had no one that I can recall reading to me at bedtime, although I did read to my sister when she was a baby and toddler. Books were available, but "sacred ritual?"
And I challenge the author to cite statistics about parents/adults reading to children decreasing, because from everything I have seen it has Not decreased. It may have even increased slightly given the children who spend time in quality child care. Children are seeing adults read to them more frequently than not - even if it isn't a parent and it isn't at bedtime.
In addition, statistics show that in families where reading isn't emphasized, Singing may take over. Here is the chart with the statistics.
From this chart - and other data, we know that literacy comes in a myriad of forms. It is very "White" to assume that it is reading books which is of prime importance. Some families tell stories, or sing, or otherwise interact and pass on information in ways that are hard to quantify. Are all of those children being abused by not having this "sacred bedtime ritual"? Hardly. The author of the article betrays her bias and ignorance about the many ways in which children are raised and nurtured within their families.
Finally, I take issue with the authors implication that parents who may giggle at this book are unwittingly condoning abuse or are otherwise participating in something of which they should be ashamed.
Do we not have enough crap to wade through in judgement of our parenting without this? Do we already not feel guilty about nearly every decision we agonize over, every thing we are failing to provide without this opinion that a small tidbit of shared adult humor is Bad?
Should the author not also address the trap that more and more parents fall into - that of spending 4 hours putting their child to sleep and not connecting with their partner? That little issue leads to many, many more Bad things that failing to read to your child every night. Like Disconnection and Divorce.
So, Ms Zacharias , Lighten the F*ck Up.