Dr. McElroy here.
A new book has recently been released, and it’s an interesting one. Many of you have heard about it, and I cannot in good conscience write the title of the book on this website – it would be inappropriate. However, I feel compelled to write about it for several reasons.
First, a disclaimer: I do not represent the opinions of others when I write this, only my own. In fact, part of this exercise is to start discussion, because I anticipate this post will be controversial.
This new book is decorated with the beautiful artwork of a children’s book, yet the title is plainly written on the cover and is obviously meant to instill the book with irony from the beginning. The content juxtaposes what comes across as sweet children’s verse with some pretty intense language, while accompanied by the same wistful artwork. The book was written by a gentleman inspired by (according to the press) a 2 hour long effort to get his then 2 year old daughter to sleep.
This book is now a New York Times and Amazon best seller.
I bring up this book for several reasons. First and foremost, I have discovered many parents already know about it – while others don’t. Because of the decor of the book, parents should be aware that it even exists so as to steer their children clear of it if they feel the need to (e.g., if the child sees the book in the ADULT HUMOR section of Barnes and Noble while shopping with his/her parent and pulls it off the shelf thinking it’s a children’s book, which it’s obviously not). Of course, it is every parent’s responsibility to ensure the media to which their children are exposed is age appropriate – but that’s another discussion. (On a side note, I’ve had the joy of reading reviews of the book from several sources, including the reader reviews on Amazon, and I wish to be clear: this is not a bedtime book one should read to their children. Some of the reviewers did not understand that point.)
Second, while the language of the book will offend some, I can say with certainty that most parents feel this level of frustration when dealing with their children at some point – maybe not while trying to get them to sleep (although that’s a common instigator), but perhaps while trying to figure out the meaning of their newborn’s cries; or trying to get their toddler to eat, or their teenager to agree to a curfew! One of my good friends recently told me, “It is not a global mystery that it is hard to put kids to bed, nor is it a secret that we get frustrated. However, this book is not only unnecessary but offensive.” Others have shared that they identify with not only the content, but also with the intensity of frustration that the language implies. I personally have never seen a book that better combines the feelings of absolute love and absolute frustration a parent can feel while caring for their child – it’s almost as if one feels two opposite emotions at the exact same time! I have met many parents so far in my career, truly excellent parents who feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, hopeless, defeated, and inadequate (and I’ve been one of them!). Whether parents who feel this way need a book like this to allow them to empathize with one another is up to their individual tastes.
I will also go out on a limb and say that, again, while the book will offend some, it will also without a doubt start discussion – maybe between parents who will finally feel able to vent about their feelings; maybe between pediatricians and their families about how to deal with those feelings, and what to do to make sure a parent doesn’t go off the deep end; maybe between academics about the current state of children’s literature or Americans’ buying habits; who knows? I will also say that, while I was a resident in training, I saw many cases of child abuse, and I chose to judge harshly those parents who harmed their children – without knowing the circumstances, and without having children of my own. Now a father of two young children (and a little older and more experienced), I can put myself in the shoes of young parents, parents with financial difficulties, with mood disorders, with overwhelming demands, with maturity issues – and see how things can snap for them. I don’t condone the behavior obviously, but I have a better understanding of it today. Perhaps it is better that intense feelings are expressed in the form of the written and spoken word (to appropriate recipients, of course) – just maybe it would help one parent not lose their cool, to know that others face their same challenges while still loving their children. Maybe reading this book, despite or because of its content, may get a parent to talk to another, and good comes out of it. Or maybe I’m just an eternal optimist.
I would love to hear your opinions – leave them here or on our Facebook page. Keep the discussion civil and respectful, and I challenge all who wish to contribute to do so with an open mind and heart.
Best to all of you!