I finally read this, standing in front of the spinning display racks in the children's section of my local bookstore. I've been warned that this was a scary book, but I really did not understand how terrifying it is. This is screaming nightmare level scary, J-horror scary, what with all the crawling and unconscious cuddling that goes on. Seriously, is this what you want to see looking up from end of your bed?
Shudder. A woman cannot express her love for her destructive, active child while he is awake, so she sneaks in and sings doggerel to him while unconscious. The latent animosity towards children is so strong in this book it chokes me. I am very understanding of how frustrating children are - believe me - but the way this plays out between the daytime emotional withholding and nighttime...what?...idolization - this is some scary stuff.
The boy grows up, and his mother keeps breaking in and creeping, creeping to his bedside, so she can cuddle and sing more doggerel.
I mean, breaking in. This is understood to be something he doesn't know is happening. And he is understood to be married with children at this point. Gah. Freud called, and he sent several text messages, and he is contracting with one of those sky-writing planes right this minute.
Mom gets sick and old, and then he comes to cuddle her and sing doggerel while she dies. I was going to post the picture, but fuck it, you get the idea.
Look, I know all about nostalgic children's books, things we were read or read to ourselves when we were kids so they have a kind of sparkle on them. My sister recently dug a bunch of books out of our mother's attic, and one of them was one I loved so strongly and so fiercely as a kid I couldn't even see how weird it was until my husband paged through, and was like, really? This is super cheesy. He was right, and the scales fell from my eyes.
This book is terrifying. We have to break this cycle. Stop giving this book as a shower gift - it does not hold up. There are so many better books out there about parent-child relationships, about love, with poetry that isn't disasterous.
I'll love you forever.
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.
No, just no. I'll like you for always
. That is a for dumb way to put that. I can't even deal with the metrics here, but this is bad, bad stuff. Give me the Suessian anapests of The Cat in the Hat or the soft, flexible metrics of Where the Wild Things Are - which both deal with parent-child antagonism in a satisfying way - before you give me this crap. And before you give it to anyone else. Think before you read this at bedtime.