Most people who know me, know that I’m not big on swearing. At least not anymore. Since kids I’ve found that I can be just as cutting without resorting to the usual swear words.
That said, I think that “Go the F*** to Sleep” is one of the funniest books I’ve read in awhile. Mixing typical bedtime story with a bit of profane language, it’s what nearly every parent has thought on nights when the little ones just won’t go to sleep. I have the audiobook narrated by Samuel L Jackson. After a rough night, I put it on, laugh and I myself, go the f*** to sleep.
So why am I sharing this? Because CNN has a post by Karen Spears Zacharias that deems the book as not funny, because it’s “violent language” sends a bad message and demeans children. Her point isn’t that humor can’t be found in the book- but that we live in world where language like that is far too common with parents and children, and too many kids don’t have parents who read them books.
While I admit it’s true that there are children who have parents that don’t read them bedtime stories, and children with parents who swear at them and treat them even more shamefully- it doesn’t mean that this book is harmful.
Do you know of a reasonable person that would see this book and think that because it’s in the book it suddenly makes it okay to treat your children like that? I didn’t think so. Reasonable people don’t. Reasonable people see the book for what it is, a reminder that no parent is alone- that at some point in time, all parents deal with a child who won’t go to sleep.
If anything, this book is a release- a way for parents to vent their frustration without having to say it themselves. Which is a good thing.
There are technical reasons I feel like her story fails- not her point, or the arguments, but how she wrote the piece. She uses the phrase “violent language” and speaks to what I think she meant it to mean- without actually linking the two. I think she was making the point that phrases like “go the f***” are violent because they’re emotionally harmful to children. But she simply used the term and said that children are being hurt by being yelled at, without actually explaining herself. It’s sort of the missing link that makes it coherent.
But really, her story fails because she’s trying to suggest that books like this will cause parents to act this way. Just like the stories about activists who feel like shows with sexual content will cause all teenagers to become promiscuous or violent video games make for a violent society. While there are studies that show it influences some people- the majority of teenagers and gamers know that these things aren’t real, and don’t live by the same moral boundaries our society exists.
Eliminating a book doesn’t change the fact that children are treated poorly. It doesn’t change that parents have stopped reading bedtimes stories to kids, instead, letting them fall asleep in front of televisions or with video games in their hands. As a society, I think we damaged ourselves the moment we let “it takes a village” to become a regularly accepted phrase. Yes, it takes a village to run a child- but parents should be the village leaders. There are a lot of lazy parents out there who assume that teachers and other mentors will simply materialize, and that their kids will someone be fine.
But that’s just not how it is. Kids need attention, guidance and boundaries… things that only parents can set. Complaining about something and trying to make it sound dangerous isn’t going to help those children. All it’s going to do is take airtime away from groups that might be able to.
Update: Eeep. I missed closing a tag. Sorry!