Saturday, June 04, 2011

I never had to say "Go the F∆ck to Sleep, Hijos"

My two kids are in their 30s now, so I don't know how gawdawful late they stay up and whether they get enough sleep, although when Marika comes around she tends to yawn a lot, either because her dad's stories are too blasé or, well, you now.

do remember that as toddlers they never had trouble going to nor staying asleep. No, I didn't use my curandera mamá's ancient sleeping poultice. We just had a few simple things we followed.

Going to bed is
fun. Our approach to bedtime was to consider it neither a chore nor something to be feared, it was just a matter-of-fact way of ending the day. No anticipation, no anxiety. Everything was good about it, we'd tell the kids. The covers were cozy, the pillow was their favorite, their pet teddy bear would get to sleep, too (and he was tired). Singing a song, reading a book, hearing a funny made-up story were all a part of it.

Same thing went for daytime naps, with Michael sometimes falling asleep on my chest, and me often following suit and waking up to find this lump of a baby boy on top of me (until he got too heavy to bear). Later it included getting to select clothes for the next day as part of the fun, which served us well in getting them ready for school. No problem.

Staying asleep is easy. We inoculated our kids against noise to accustom them to sleeping through anything. Their bedroom doors were never closed at night. We asked visitors NOT to lower their voices when the kids were asleep and we didn't turn down the TV or stereo no matter what hour it was.

Sleeping anywhere works. During their early years, if we were at someone else's home and nap or sleep time came up, we just set the kid in his carrier or stroller and pushed it into a corner where no one would step on it. The kid slept. At a bar, the carrier would be set in a booth or under a pool table, since I shot a lot of pool then, and the kid slept through the jukebox playing. Same thing for parties at other houses: find an empty bed and lay the kid out and zoom!--Michael's asleep. To my knowledge both kids still retain the ability to zonk out within a few minutes. It worked and made having them a lot easier than some stories I've heard from other parents.

Since then I've occasionally tried to share this wisdom, with my audience usually acting like if I was describing how to properly conjugate ancient Quechua verb tenses. I rarely ask that why all the disinterest after hearing me expound my sleep-wisdom. Why they continue tiptoeing, shutting bedroom doors and shushing people while their kid tries to sleep. Yeah, I know kids are different and parents are territorial about them, but it escapes me how certain parents can deliberately set up conditions that might be creating light sleepers. The incredible difficulty encountered with certain kids fighting bedtime is part of a world that I just don't personally connect to.

Not so much for those of you who have no problems getting those niñitos to sleep, but for those who need my curandera mamá to mail them that ancient sleeping poultice, there's a book from Akashic Books by Adam Mansbach to hold you over until the shipment arrives.

Go the F∆ck to Sleep. Really, that's the title of this book, although the cover has a full moon instead of a triangle. The inside has the whole word FUCK, so yeah, it's not a book to read to your hyperkid to get him to zap out, unless you were brought up in a 60s commune with goats next to, and Che posters over your crib. Otherwise, as the cover says, consider it "a bedtime book for parents."

Here's the publisher's blurb: "Go the Fuck to Sleep" is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing blissfully off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate, and radically honest, it captures the familiar--and unspoken--tribulations of putting your little angel down for the night. Beautiful, subversive, and pants-wettingly funny, Go the Fuck to Sleep is a book for parents new, old, and expectant. You probably should not read it to your children."

And here's a taste of the text:

"The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest

And the creatures who crawl, run, and creep.

I know you're not thirsty. That's bullshit. Stop lying.

Lie the fuck down, my darling, and sleep."

Akashic Books is one of the great American small presses and we've reviewed some of their fine imprints throughout La Bloga's history. This one is not one of the great literary works. It's a fun one. It's funny. It's outrageous. It's everything but sacrilegious, and author Adam Mansbach would have had fewer sales if he'd gone there too, but it's still hilarious enough that you gotta read it. A couple of time the meter left me hanging some, but the read is knee-slapping. So long as you have little trouble saying the word FOCK, however you spell it.

Brooklyn artist Ricardo Cortés's illustrations are great and fitting for the children's rhyme theme. (He's involved in other works, including a kids' marijuana book and one on Coca-Cola and cocaine, so if you like walking this trail of irreverence, you can continue with him.

My advice is to read the book out loud out on the patio. The dissonance of reading children's rhyme along with the word Fock works better if done orally rather than silently reading it to yourself. Or have some friends over and take turns reading stanzas. Drinking Negra Modelo at the same time will guarantee you laugh harder with each new page. Then neighbors come over and you gotta share.

There's an intriguing background to how the book reached publication and its history since then. You can go here for the NY Times review and here for the New Yorker's detailing some of that.

Maybe in one of those or others you'll find a psychological analysis of why irreverence and profanity in the context of toddler-trouble can make Americans laugh so deeply, whether it's an indication of the generational brink we've allowed our society to bring us to, or if parents the world over delight equally in such extreme humor. I won't attempt that here.

As the publishers say, the book's for anybody. It's just been released in paperback and you can get it for about $8. Order extras 'cause it's a great perfect cheap gift you can have ready to turn those baby showers to-come into something genuinely human, in the American way. Or it could be therapeutic for already-parents who tiptoe creepily past that shut door throughout the night; they probably could use a poultice like this.

Es todo, hoy



Anonymous said...

Great post Rudy! Thanks for sharing. Jessica and I have laughed and laughed at reading this book!

Greg, Austin

Anonymous said...

I love your idea to gift it at a baby shower. Those things really need more gut-busting laughter and less dimple-inducing, diaper-sniffing games.

I wish I could think of more things to hyphenate but I'm all dried up right now.