Bedtime gives us some of our best parenting memories, and some of our worst. There are nights when “The Children’s Hour,” as Longfellow dubbed it, is the sweet, warm essence of all the reasons you had children, but also nights, as Adam Mansbach’s satirical best seller has captured, when you would give anything for them to “Go the ____ to Sleep.”
I keep meaning to write about Mr. Mansbach’s book, which zoomed to the top of the Amazon best-seller list before it was officially published, and which is either “the best children’s book since ‘Goodnight Moon,’ ” or a symptom of all that is wrong with parenting, depending on which Web site you read. Over on babble.com the book sparked a debate over whether it would have been thought quite so funny if written by a mother. And on XX Factor the question was, “Who the heck is buying it?”
I haven’t jumped in, partly because I couldn’t settle on what to say about the book. The goal of a Motherlode post is to spark a larger conversation, and I didn’t see a way to move beyond the chasing-our-tail circle of “Isn’t that funny? I don’t think it’s so funny! But really, it’s funny!”
Then Lisa Tucker McElroy, a frequent Motherlode contributor, put her talented pen on the more global point. She actually wrote it years ago, she says, when her daughter, now a tween, was barely 6. She sent it to me because all the talk of sleep lately has her thinking, too.
Bedtime is not just about a parent’s frustrations or a child’s needs, she writes, but about the dance between the two. It is about the moment when each present day melts into memory, becoming one child’s past, which will in turn shape another child’s future.
In a guest post today, she explores the minuet in all its complexity.
Pleasant dreams to all. Sleep tight.