And just for the record, you can’t even read the word fuck on the cover.
But that’s not important. No, the contents overshadow the cover and clearly Adam Mansbach must have been striking his own children while writing the book—how else could he have constructed such abusive and Satan-fueled verse?
This isn’t abuse. This is frustration.
Whatever, Anna Smackers—I don’t have kids so I don’t understand—that’s what you said isn’t it? I couldn’t possibly get the point of why you were so upset, you said. Well I don’t think you quite got the point. Do you realize this book is filed under humor? That it’s intended for adults?
And it’s not as if the guy in the story is actually screaming those lines at the child, we’re coming back to that point. Did you miss that? You’re claiming it’s a depiction of verbal abuse, but it isn’t verbal at all.
It must be difficult to be you, Anna, to have such perfect children that you never have to discipline or raise your voice to them. No doubt without the burden of disciplining your kids in any way, must free up a lot of time for you. That must explain how you can visit me so much.
You’re not really allowed to discipline your kids anymore are you? You raise your voice and get accused to verbally abusing them, you spank them and Child Services is knocking on your door because you’re physically abusing them. I think a spanking every once in a while might do some good. How many times growing up did one my parents threaten me with a spanking? And do you know why? Because I was being a little shit, that’s why.
I’m not condoning child abuse—physical, verbal or psychological. Don’t read this wrong and claim I’m saying you should punch a kid in the face when they get out of line. I don’t think so at all.
But getting spanked when I was out of control and past the point of hearing my parent’s verbal admonishments? Got my attention. You don’t want to get spanked when you’re a little kid, you certainly don’t want to get spanked in public—and let’s face it, when you got threatened with a spanking nine times out of ten you were fucking around in the middle of a department store at the mall. You don’t want to get spanked again though; you remember it hurt and was embarrassing, its not something you want to happen repeat.
Of course there are those parents who skip entirely over the verbal portion of attempting to keep their kid in line and begin with the spanking, which is just furious, repeated poorly aimed bottom swatting. They were excessive, took it too far and ruined it for everyone.
Everyone seems to overlook the psychological aspect of parenting; verbal and physical are the real attention grabbers. From what I’ve seen parenting is like being at war—war with really tiny enemies who are always hungry but never want to eat what you offer them.
How many times have you seen a kid throwing a tantrum or not following their parents, and that parent is at their wit’s end? All that parent wants to do is leave the grocery store. Its late, they have to start dinner and that friggin kid has been picking up everything; can I have this, can I have that, why not, of course I’ll eat it, why can’t I have it?
What usually happens? Well first the parent lies to them and claims they’ll buy it for them next time. Then what?
“Fine, you don’t want to leave? Well I’m leaving, see you later.”
And they walk away.
I enjoy watching this because at first the kid doesn’t believe them. They call that parent’s bluff. But then the parent walks away, heads for the door or around the corner.
And then that kid freaks the fuck out.
There’s usually a panic-stricken scream before that kid tears-ass to catch up, tears running down their adorable pudgy little kid faces.
This is acceptable though. Well, at least for now. Complete psychological warfare on toddlers. You just threatened them with abandonment.
Where’s the outcry about that? Instead you’re up in arms because a parent read to their child at bedtime, but was frustrated when three hours later the kid was still up engaging in their own form of warfare.
But it’s OK to threaten your child with leaving them to fend for themselves in the middle of the grocery store because they stopped to check out the Bubble Yum selection.
Go the Fuck to Sleep isn’t about the verbal abuse of children but, rather, the internal monologue that everyone has, not just parents. Yes, specifically this is the frustration of parents with their children, but more then that it reminds us that steady complaining of children with parents, employee with boss and vice versa, coworkers and friends with one another. You’re thinking it all the time.
Our conversational filters stop us—some of us, at least—from saying most of these things. Telling your boss to fuck off, calling your coworker an idiot, spitting in a customer’s food; this book represents the things we don’t say, the things we don’t do.
Mansbach, said it himself, “A lot of these frustrations are not permissible to talk about. We’re not completely honest because we don’t want to be bad parents.”
It’s like admitting you don’t get a joke. Doesn’t happen, you just laugh along with everyone else. So no one admits that their kids are really in charge when it comes to bedtime, instead they keep swapping stories with their other child-bearing friends about how perfect their little angels are.
You can’t admit you don’t know how to put your kids to bed, you can’t admit you just spent three hours reading them half a dozen stories because they refused to lay still, or close their eyes or stay in bed. You can’t admit that they’re in control.
Maureen O’Connor’s all-too short bit for the Gawker is great, and the comments are even better. She addresses David Arrendondo’s suggestion that to properly understand how offensive Go the Fuck to Sleep is one should should instead consider if it was written about Jews, blacks, Muslims or Latinos.
Personally I think one should be more insulted that out of the four Arrendondo mentions, blacks doesn’t get capitalized, that seems racist. Just saying.
O’Connor is absolutely right in her assertion that, “Swapping ‘Jew’ into random sentences about children doesn’t mean the aforementioned sentence is offensive. It means that one does not speak to a Jewish adult the way one speaks to a child.”
Can you think about how disturbing it would be if Mansbach had written a book about how to read a Jew to sleep at night? I prefer the product as we have it now, even if it does incite (one person) riots in my store.
A while back a guy came up to the desk, his trendy man-purse (really—man-purse; it was a third the size of your average messenger bag, so it was a man-purse) bouncing against his love-handle clad hips. As he’s still a step or two from the desk he tosses a book the distance between us where it hits the desk and slides towards me. It’s a biography of Che, one of several we regularly carry.
“Why do you sell this?” he demanded as the book came to stop before me.
I glanced at the cover for a second, and momentarily considered not being a smartass.
“Because it’s a book,” I told him.
He accused me of promoting an anti-government baby-killer who burned villages and blahblahblah. I don’t know much about Che, and I don’t really care. I’m sure at three in the morning some time in the near future I’ll spend an hour or two on Wikipedia reading up on him, but at any given moment, I really just don’t care. But more important than my not caring about Che, I don’t care about your opinion of him. If you’re offended by this man and are opposed to books or movies or t-shirts touting him as a hero, then don’t buy them.
But why do you have to waste my time with this? Don’t you have friends? Fuck, start a blog if no one can stand you. Maybe no one will read it but at least you can feel like someone’s listening. I think about three people read this but at least it makes me feel better to write it. But leave me alone. I don’t care.
People working retail, we’re doing just that. Working. We’re not selling books on Che so we can encourage overthrowing a government, we’re not selling Go the Fuck to Sleep to promote verbally abusing children. We’re selling these books because people are buying them. If you don’t like them, don’t buy them, but how is it fair that you’re giving me shit because other people are buying them?
Retail workers, they’re like Joaquin Phoenix in 8mm.
Defending his job at a porn store, Phoenix’s character, Max California says, “I don’t buy it. I don’t endorse it. I just point the way.”
So stop giving me shit for pointing the way. You don’t like it, write a letter to Akashic Books who published it, or to Adam Mansbach for writing it. While you’re at it, why don’t you call up his daughter who’s constant requests for a glass of water or trip to the bathroom or another story is what prompted the writing of this book in the first place.
The problem with doing that is that the publisher has pointed out that the first two lines on each page are what the parent is saying out loud, the horrible things that come after are internalized. The kid never hears that.
“The book is an outlet for that frustration, but it completely reinforces parents sucking it up and dealing with it. There’s never a moment where the kid suffers because of the parent. It’s actually pretty idealistic,” Johnny Temple of Akashic Books said.
Oh, and he’s also read a censored version of the story to his own young children—a censored version which is now in the works to be published as well. His kids loved it, recognizing the shit they pull to avoid going to bed.
In her article claiming that the book encourages verbally abusing children and is representative of household bullying and parental neglect, Karen Spears Zacharias claims that “the violent language of “Go the F*** to Sleep” is not the least bit funny, when one considers how many neglected children fall asleep each night praying for a parent who’d care enough to hold them, nurture them and read to them.”
But those parents who don’t care enough to hold their kids or read to them aren’t the subject of this story. They’re not the audience either. This wasn’t written for them or about them, or meant to represent them. This book was intended for those parents who do read to their children, it was meant to remind parents who do take part in this time-honored tradition that they are not alone in trying to combat the cunning little bastards that are their children.
Let’s be honest though, if a kid who is never read to by their parents picks up Go the Fuck to Sleep, they’re not going to suddenly cry, “This is why my parents never read to me! They knew I’d ask for water! Why did I have to be so thirsty as a child!?”
Anna Smackers (remember the customer whose annoying, multiple visits to the store to complain about the book prompted this) threatened to stop shopping at the store and move all her business to Amazon. They sell the book too, so I’m not sure if that’s really making a point on her part. Not only do they sell it as well, but its listed on the right-hand sidebar when you click into the book section. And has a preview of a few pages. I feel like for an online-only retailer, that’s pretty comparable to having it sit right on the customer service desk.
She also claimed to be writing an editorial to the Buffalo News, and I have no doubt all seven people who still read that paper will be outraged. She intended to contact the local TV news stations and involve the organization 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence. Aside from saying it seems to be outside that group’s mission statement to get involved in where I place a stack of books, I’m really not going to touch the last one. 1000MPV seems like a great group based out of San Francisco, created in the wake of real violence, as opposed to this imagined abuse, and even I can’t mock this group. Yet.
Anna’s second visit to the store was enjoyable for two reasons. After she finished her tirade about amassing her mom-army against my merchandising choices, a customer in line behind her informed us their children go to school together and this woman is a big pain in the ass all around.
Another customer who’d witnessed the exchange suggested we allow Anna to organize a book burning in the store.
Perhaps that would satisfy her.