I admit it, I think this book is really f#*king funny.
One of the things that I enjoy about Facebook is the links of interest that make me think or laugh. When the Amazon link for this book came across my news feed, I laughed and laughed and quoted it to Steve and then shared it around.
(sorry the picture is crappy, but at least that makes the post SFW.)
Anyway, in the intervening weeks, the world of social media has also brought me a couple of different articles that are critical of this book, saying that the book is not funny at all. It actually made me google “go the fuck to sleep isn’t funny” to see what was being written out there. PhD in Parenting (no big surprise), has a very reasonable take on the book, in my opinion. I liked this article (found through my googling), too.
One article I read that said that this book is not funny because there are too many kids in the world that are neglected and abused, and it’s not funny to make a joke about that. While I think the author misses the point of satire, she’s been savaged enough by other bloggers that I’ll keep my mouth shut on that front.
The article that stuck with me, though, was one written by an attachment parenting/unschooling guru, who expressed the opinion that this cruel and harsh thinking toward children only results from not honoring a child’s needs. If only children are let to sleep and wake on their own schedules (rather than being coerced to sleep by their parents), then these kinds of sentiments never come up. We should certainly never be commanding our children to sleep.
Now, I am certainly sympathetic to the idea that our culture places waaaay too much emphasis on organizing babies’ and children’s sleep for the parent’s convenience. And I’m sure that there are children out there who, left to their own devices, will sleep easily and well on their own. But I didn’t give birth to any children like that, so I’ve been intensely involved with bedtime for the last 10 years. Not because I insist that my kids keep to a particular schedule, but that my kids require my presence and active participation to transition to bed. And I’m okay with that. But there are regularly times when I am exhausted and just ready for my kids to go the f&*k to sleep. Although I admit that at times I have said, “Go to sleep!” (never with the f-bomb, though), it’s more likely to be a plea than a command. I want to talk to my husband, do the dishes, read a book, or just sit and have no one talking to me or touching me. This is not a sign that I don’t respect and honor their needs, just that I am HUMAN.
I’m going to try and give this particular writer the benefit of the doubt and assume that since her kids are grown, amnesia has set in, and she just doesn’t remember the intensity of those early years. Or maybe she really did have kids that were easy and independent sleepers. But I take issue with the idea that respecting a child’s autonomy means that we can sit back and let them parent themselves. Because I care deeply about who my kids are and what they want and need, I am intensely engaged with them for many of our waking hours. Which means that often, at the end of the day, I am tired. Bone-deep, falling-over tired. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Don’t get me wrong. Parenting my children is by far the most rewarding work of my life so far. But it is work. Joyful, frustrating, challenging miraculous work. It’s bad enough that we have books like “Babywise” selling a bill of goods that says if you only take charge and follow their program, having kids will be easy. We also have experts from the opposite end of the spectrum saying that if we just trust and honor our kids enough, it will be easy. If it feels hard–or if we find ourselves frustrated to the point of profanity–then we’re doing it wrong. As parents, we can’t win!
To my mind, the goal isn’t easy. The goal is rich and joyful and textured and meaningful. Which is sometimes easy and sometimes a lot of hard work. Both of which are okay.
In the meantime, I won’t begrudge myself a little crass humor, remembering that it’s not to be directed at my children, but to be shared with my spouse or my mama-friends, to laugh at our shared challenges and get through tough moments.
And then I’ll go kiss my sweet babies, who are blessedly asleep.