Monday, June 20, 2011

Go The F*** To Sleep: What's Charlie Chaplin Got To Do With It?

Charlie Chaplin famously once said that "life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot."

Go The F*** To Sleep illustrates this perfectly.

After I posted my original thoughts about the book, I read Amy Sohn's essay Could A Mom Have Written Go The F*** To Sleep?  Sohn raises a lot of valid points about how harshly (and I would argue unnecessarily) our society judges women who complain about the difficulties of parenting, and isn't wrong when she points out that "the bar for paternal involvement" [in both bedtime routines and the lives of children in general] is much lower.

I had planned to expound on that post here, but I really think you're better served reading her thoughts yourself.  Besides, what particularly intrigues me about Go The F*** to Sleep now is the discourse that's taking place among parents over whether or not the book is really funny.

Some parents think it's abso-freakin-lutely hilarious, others chuckle at first but then feel uneasy, and still others think it's just not funny.  Just check out the comments that Annie from PhD in Parenting received when she shared her own feelings about the book.

A lot of readers share my belief that part of why it's so funny is because it's an open expression of thoughts we try to keep to ourselves.  For a lot of us, there is humor in the shock value of hearing those words uttered out loud.  And in general, I think it's even more humorous for parents who lean toward attached, responsive style parenting, and can appreciate the desperate wish for the few peaceful moments that a sleeping child brings.

Many commenters, though, agree with Annie's assertion that something about the book left her feeling uneasy.  And this is why I think the quote from Chaplin fits this book so well. 

Chaplin understood that comedy and laughter are inherently deceptive.  Most comedy, after all, comes at the expense of someone or something.  When we look and laugh, often without thinking, we fail to look deeply enough to see the real issues at play.  We don't see the tragedy beneath the surface. 

Now, I'm not going so far as to call bedtime a tragedy.  That would be overly dramatic, (though there may be parents out there who would disagree).

But the struggle that many parents face at bedtime is real.  It often causes tears, in both children and adults.  As parents, we struggle to figure out what our children really need.  We struggle with our own need for time to ourselves.  We struggle to find the patience that our children deserve.

And many of us lose these battles.

Adam Mansbach's book is funny.  So is Samuel L. Jackson's reading.  I still believe that.  However, I think the readers who don't see the humor, or who see more than just humor, are correct in their assessment too. 

Go The F*** To Sleep is the comic long-shot.  It's the quick, humorous glance at a  fictitious bedtime battle.

The problem is, the rest of us are living the real world close-up.                 

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