Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés’ Go the F**k to Sleep, a father’s anguished plea to his child, has made all the best-seller lists. On Slate, Katie Roiphe sees the quiet desperation of yuppie parents.
Are our enlightened, engaged, sensitive parenting practices driving a certain segment of the population insane?
. . . The odd, rageful, beautiful little book’s inspiration lies in the commingling of insipid bedtime story rhymes with the inner monologue of the wildly irritated parent: “The owls fly forth from the treetops./ Through the air, they soar and they sweep./ A hot crimson rage fills my heart, love. / For real, shut the fuck up and sleep.” The stylish parody relies for its humor and frisson on a certain level of frustration, an over- the- top, pent-up fury toward one’s children, because without that fury, it’s simply not that funny.
The sleepless child’s parents are trying to watch a video and eat some microwaved popcorn, notes Roiphe. “The precious adult time (the father) is desperately fighting to preserve is so paltry, so modest, so barely there.” No wonder he’s ticked off.
Parents who raise their children to see “the whole world as an expanse of devoted maids and butlers” have themselves to blame, Roiphe writes.
Likewise, if we can’t manage to hire a baby sitter and get out of the house, if we have made of the conventional nuclear family structure something stifling, airless, it can’t really be the fault of a 4-year-old, resourceful and mischievous as he may be. We are, after all, 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.
. . . But if those sweet-faced children, so gorgeously drawn by Ricardo Cortés, could talk back would they say: “Put on a fucking dress. Have a fucking drink. Stop hovering over us. Live your own goddamned life.”
My stepdaughter and her husband, parents of an infant and a two-year-old, think the book is hilarious. On a recent solo visit, my husband offered to babysit so they could go out to dinner. They turned him down, saying he wouldn’t be able to handle it if both kids woke up at the same time. (John: “I raised three children!”) After negotiations, they’ve agreed to let both of us babysit on our July visit so they can go out together for a few hours.