Warning: this review contains a lot of swearing, for a children's book review. It can't be helped. Sorry.
I've always joked about having a home-wide ban on the Berenstain Bears, by which I mean I'm deadly fucking serious. However, I've never actually told the kids about this ban, not wanting to give these books the dangerous sparkly allure of the forbidden, layering transgressive delight onto all the nose-picking, goody-goody bullshit nestled in their pages. So it probably shouldn't have come as a huge shock when the boy trundled home from school the other day with this book in his library bag. “What did you get from the media center today?” I ask. “Look!” he says, pulling out a book about my hirsute nemeses from his bag. Butter wouldn't melt in my mouth.
There's a couple of ways this could have gone. I could have had an all-out Mommy Dearest style attack, tearing the book from his hands and raving about unrealistic depictions of parents and children while I stomped up and down on the book, its pages squishing and tearing as they ground into the wet leaves littering the alley behind our house. I could have called and made an appointment for counseling, as this is clearly what I need. I could have pretended not to see the book, feigning blindness to the whole thing. Thankfully, I try to walk the freaking path of the Buddha, so I took the middle road, which is saying, “Oh that's nice,” surreptitiously reading the book, and then freaking out on the Internets in a profanity-laden book review. Maturity, I have not. Fine, whatever.
When two small bears
Don't get along,
The grownups worry -
What went wrong?
Arg! Kill me now! Kill.me.now. I have two kids, coincidentally a boy and a girl, and they fight all the fucking time. Not in a particularly nasty way, just in the regular Bickersons kids way, where the girl touches the boy's Legos, and the boy loses his mind, and it's like the Legos have a big red button on them that says “Push this to make the boy freak out.” It's satisfying in a Lévi-Strauss
kind of way, and I can see why she does it. (But for heaven's sake, don't touch the fucking Legos.) So when Mama Bear whistles to get their attention and asks them all Socratic-like what the Bear kids are fighting about, and the Bear kids can't remember, and then they all have a sit-com style laugh about how foolish it was, it makes me want to kill. Kill, I say.
This is not helping. This is not something I can use. This is utopian garbage, where useless perfect people – er, bears – have non-problems and then work them out using the magic of rationalism. Childhood is irrational. Parenting is irrational. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all hold hands and sing? Yes, it would, and we will, and that will be fun for a while. But it doesn't change the fact that there is still a red button on the Legos, a button that is just begging to get pushed, and the answer lies somewhere in the murky territory of “don't push that” and “don't freak out so much.”
I wish, oh man I wish, this had been some sort of distopian reimagining of the Berenstain Bears, where Stephen King dropped a dome over their godamn tree house, and they had to decide who to eat next. Four bears enter, no bears leave. Now that's a book I could get behind.
P.S. When girl bear goes into the bathroom to – and I quote – brush her fur, that's when I freaked the fuck right out. No fur brushing! Or fine, fur brushing, but no fur brushing where I can see. Fur brushing is a special, private thing for girl bears to explore in the privacy of their own rooms.