- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 3, 2011

Culture Challenge of the Week: Parental Frustration

It’s a short book, 14 verses long, with the cadence and imagery of a child’s bedtime tale. Written by a young dad, the book topped Amazon’s best-seller list even before it was released. It’s gone viral and has earned cult status among parents in a few short weeks.

It seems like the perfect baby shower gift or present for new parents to read to their little ones.

Until you read the title: “Go the [expletive] to Sleep.”

It turns out that this book is a parody for parents and definitely not for children. Each verse begins with child-friendly descriptions such as this one: “The lambs have laid down with the sheep. You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear.”

It’s the next line, however, that reveals the parent’s unsaid thoughts and rising frustration: “Please go the [expletive] to sleep.”

Each verse builds on the next, expressing parental frustration that becomes anger ready to explode. It’s wildly popular.

The author, Adam Mansbach, asserts that the story’s genius - and why it resonates with parents - is that it’s an honest portrayal of what parents feel, and stifle, during the ordinary frustrations of parenthood.

“Remember that the parents in my book aren’t actually cursing at the kids. They’re actually being good parents; they’re not letting on that they’re about to explode,” he said in an interview with Smithmag.net.

So what’s the problem? While the book taps into a common parental experience, it advocates the wrong solution.

The book’s implicit message is that it’s perfectly OK to stoke your internal anger and resentment against your child - just keep the smiley-face on and mute the profanities that can tumble forth from boiling emotions.

Comments from parents across the Internet reflect their embracing of this message. For them, “Go the [expletive] to Sleep” perfectly captures the inner voice that plays over and over inside their heads, even as they bravely soldier on.

How to Save Your Family: By Parenting With Peace

How do good parents avoid that inner rage Mr. Mansbach seems to assume is an inevitable part of parenting?

Savor childhood. Relish the fleeting opportunity to tuck your precious ones in bed. Understand there is a day coming when that little child will walk down the aisle to graduation and out of your home.

Story Continues →