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Yes, I'm a wowser...

I've been mulling over this for a week, really trying to be okay with it. I've read a lot of debate about it, and mostly that debate concurs it's just a bit of fun, it's funny. People of all ages think it's funny, so why don't I?

I'm talking about the book titled, "Go the f**k to sleep" which Text Publishing is releasing in Australia. There has been a lot of outrage that the video reading of the book by our beloved Noni Hazelhurst *cue collective AWWWW* was pulled from You Tube - while the same reading done by Samuel L Jackson was not. I'll state it here that I also find that outrageous, and also discriminatory (because it was just Noni).

Text Publishing proclaims it a book for real parents who know the frustration of trying to get a child to sleep (meanwhile, I have already read about parents planning on reading it to their children, and reference to it as a children's book - are people for real?). I am a real parent, and I have been frustrated when my older children won't go to sleep (I'm talking about my post school aged children, here), so I get that frustration. I was talking with the Grumpy Old Man about it the other night - while still trying to figure out why this book makes me feel kind of yuck - and yes, he concurred, we have BOTH thought that very phrase, "Just go the f**k to sleep!".

The thing that I think is playing on my mind is that there is a difference between thinking it, even saying it once or twice, and publishing a book which makes light of it in such a way that reveals the contempt much of society has for the sleeping needs of small people.

Text Publishing describes the book as "affectionate", but is it really? Or does it simply say, "Yeah, you child is being a little shit and not getting that you're tired and just leaving you alone"? We all laugh wry laughs because we've all felt this way, but do we ask ourselves why we feel this way?

Why do we feel this way? Is it okay to feel this way?

I'll suggest we feel this way because we, as parents in Modern Western Society are under-supported. We value our little sanctuary homes more than living with extended family. We don't want to be reliant on others. We don't want to have to put up with interfering grandparents and their old-fashioned opinions, or nosey neighbours, or other unreasonable people (because we are always reasonable, rational and right). We want our big houses and our cars, and our private education and our holidays, and our new clothes every season, so we have to work. A lot of parents work a LOT, because it's the only way they will make ends meet. If one parent doesn't work, then the working partner has to work doubly hard to compensate for the lack of income, leaving the other parent often feeling isolated at home with the small person - or people - all day long.

At the end of the day, the child wants to spend time with mum and/or dad, because they haven't seen them all day (either because they were in childcare or the other parent was at work all day, or both).

As well as this, many parents believe their child should be "sleeping through" by six months, and when the child almost always isn't, many parents resort to sleep training practices which actually teach the child to associate stress with going to sleep. Quite often these sleep training practice work in the short term. Only very rarely do they work in the long term. So, then you have a 3-4-5 year old who resists going to sleep because somewhere deep down inside it makes them feel unsettle, insecure and abandoned.

So, the combination of strung out parents who believe they shouldn't or can't ask for support to parent their child to sleep, and children who miss their parents or have negative bedtime associations leads to a society which is more than a little obsessed with getting children to sleep.

This is the fertile ground into which the seed has been planted that a book which shows open contempt for a child who obviously has a need to be with their parent (the book doesn't illuminate what the rest of the child's day is like - do the child's parents work, is one of them feeling isolated and depressed because they are at home with the toddler all day and their career is slipping away from them? Are there financial stresses or relationship stresses the child is picking up on? Who the f**k knows, right?) is funny!

If the book was an elderly person with dementia, would there be more outcry?
If the book was about a child with a disability people could see, would there be more outcry?
If the book was about how real people feel about asylum seekers, would there be more outcry?

Why is it okay to laugh at parents who are not supported and are finding it difficult to have compassion for the child who relies on them for everything, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

I know it's a book about how many of us real parents really feel. I have really felt that way - even this week. But I suck it up because I'm an adult and I can ask for help, I can rationalise that this too shall pass, I can meet my own needs. My children can't do that as well as I can yet, which is why they still need me to help them do it. I understand that as much as I would like them to just go the f**k to sleep, that is unrealistic expectation and if I'm really stressing about it I need to ask for help.

Putting a book out into the market place that espouses this kind of contempt for the real needs of small children will only make it acceptable to feel and express such contempt, and not get help for it - because it's completely normal and okay to feel that way, everyone does...

What will the next outrageous and funny book be about - wanting to throw the screaming baby against the wall - haven't we all wanted to do that at some point, as well?

NB, I do know what it is to have a child who won't sleep, one of my children landed me in hospital with exhaustion after sleeping a total of two hour in every 24 hours between the age of 18 months and 2 years - this same child never slept more than 40 minutes at a time - or 9 hours in total (which happen twice, the rest of the time, he slept 6 hours) in every 24, and I still had his big brother to care for, so I was lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep in every 24 for the first 2.75years of this child's life. Two of my other three children didn't sleep regular hours until they were 3 and 2 respectively. I had one child who did sleep "well". So, I get sleep deprivation. I also get that parents need to demand more adult support, and not rely so much on their babies and toddlers to understand the needs of their parents for sleep - it is beyond the capacity of a child under 7 or 8 to understand their parents needs.


Oscar's Mum said…
I have a child who wouldn't sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time from 5 months until 12 months when the cause was diagnosed. I loved both Samuel L Jackson's and Noni's versions. I laughed so hard I almost cried. I think this book is just trying to provide some light relief to strung out parents and parents who have survived and can laugh about it now. Anyone who is talking about reading this to their children is way off base, but I don't see any problem with using satire and comedy to make people laugh. Laughter is one of the greatest things in life, especially when you're strung out stressed.
Sif said…
I hear you :). I guess I just can't laugh about despite being able to relate wholeheartedly to it. You found you child had a cause for the wakefulness. Many parents believe their children are just manipulating them and don't believe children have real long-term emotional needs. If the child is not diagnosably ill and has been fed, change and cuddled a bit - then continuing to resist sleep must simply be manipulation... This book makes it okay to believe the child is just being difficult for "no good reaspn". That outcome makes me too uncomfortable to laugh.
Jocelyn said…
You bring up some good points. I would never ever let my child see this. I watched it and I laughed. I shared it on Facebook because I didn't see anything but the funny side of it. We have 3 kids under 5. We don't get much sleep. So it was something we just had a laugh about. We still let our kids cuddle inbed at night. We still get up at 5 when the baby is wide awake. I guess I never saw the meaning behind the book other than the laugh. Great post xo
Sif said…
Thanks Jocelyn :). Most parents I know are quite prepared to parent their children to sleep - some under extreme circumstances. Sadly, many parents feel they shouldn't have to do this beyond even just three weeks. These parents feel very hard done by when their child won't just "go the f**k to sleep" - perhaps I'm alone in the following, but when I'm feeling resentful and some says, "Yeah, totally, you're so right", I find my resentment grows. This book might encourage some parents to feel justified in resenting their child's sleep resistance (instead of trying to understand it). Funny? Not for those children.

I've seen lots of humour about the frustration of a child who won't sleep - and I've laughed heartily - but the antagonism of the phrase "go the f**k to sleep" feels yuck. To me it can't be interpreted other than, "I really don't care what you want, just go to sleep!"

But hey, that just my interpretation, I'm just one person.
Chantal said…
I guess it's easier to judge other parents rather than actually feel some empathy for those that are going through a tough time. And believe me, it's not just working parent's who want their child to sleep. I'm a SAHM & want my child to sleep. They need it & I need it. Everyone is happier the next day when they've had a good night sleep. Sleep is as important as eating & drinking & breathing. It's essential to be able to function & all the judging of "selfish" parents trying to encourage their child to sleep won't change that fact.

I read the book & thought it was funny. To me, I didn't see anywhere where the parents in the book were neglecting their child. They were responding to their child on every page. They weren't leaving their child alone & scared. The swearing to me was just an extreme way to describe a parent's frustration about a child who just won't sleep. *shrug* I don't know, maybe I read it wrong.
Oscar's Mum said…
I agree with Jocelyn this book is about the frustration of the parents, not necessarily aimed at the child, but at the situation. I don't believe it is making any judgements about why the child can't sleep, or suggests that the parent isn't attending to the child. Its also obvious by the end of the book that the parents are just trying to get a bit of "together" time. And I'm sure all parents can relate to the frustration of wanting just a little bit of time to themselves and being thwarted by their children! I'll freely admit that some nights when I'm getting up for the third or fourth time that I sometimes mutter similiar words to myself in my head.
Ms Kate said…
I guess I think of it more as that every parent experiences rough times, and often sleep/bedtime can be one of those times. To be able to laugh about it, is a good thing.

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