The frustrated father in Go The F – – to Sleep, a new children's book for grown ups, is desperate for his toddler to lie down, quit asking for another bedtime story or glass of milk or teddy bear, and get some shut-eye.
Because, damn it, mom and dad just want to watch a movie.
The book, penned by Adam Mansbach and lushly illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, is a parody of syrupy bedtime stories, weaving together sweet rhymes with exasperated pleas in passages like this one:
"The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest
And the creatures who crawl, run, and creep.
I know you're not thirsty. That's bullsh–. Stop lying.
Lie the f— down, my darling, and sleep."
Judging by the fact that the book is No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list, it's clearly struck a chord. In fact, thanks to buzz stemming from a leaked digital copy that was emailed from parent to parent, the book sold 100,000 pre-release copies.
But readers are divided: Is the book simply a funny vent that masses of sleep-deprived parents can relate to? Or is it a sign that over-indulgent parenting is slowly driving parents mad?
The dissenters might also ask: Should "parenting" even be a verb?
"What this guy is saying, pardon my French, is that he doesn't have balls enough to stand up to his child," says Dr. Steven Shapiro, head of pediatrics at Abington Memorial Hospital and founder of Pediatric Medical Associates in Montgomery County.
"Parents are unwilling to be parents. Instead, they want to keep a good friendship with their child, and kids pick up on this in a heartbeat," the doctor explains.
"A kid knows when he can take advantage."
In other words, when the father writes, "The windows are dark in the town, child.
The whales huddle down in the deep.
I'll read you one very last book if you swear
You'll go the f- – to sleep," he is, says Shapiro, wrongly giving in to a child who has learned he can get one more bedtime story, if only he makes a big enough fuss.
Shapiro, who has been a pediatrician for over 30 years, has seen the problem get worse and worse, with the newest generation of parents taking the permissive style of parenting they grew up with even further.
But "if you let a 2-year-old run your house, you're going to be frustrated and sleep-deprived," the pediatrician warns.
And here's an even more dire prediction from the doctor: "If you're not taking control now and putting values in the proper order, you're building in the wiring for what the child is going to look like as an adolescent."
Some parents, on the other hand, are a bit quicker to defend the book's desperate dad.
"I really believe in the importance of boundaries and setting limits, but establishing them can take time. You try to hold your own as a parent, but kids can be wonderfully manipulative," says Marianna Sachse, mother of 21-month-old Elias and a member of Kol Tzedek in West Philadelphia.
She's also a social media expert at a communications agency, so if something has gone viral like Go the F – – to Sleep did (i.e., made the rounds of the Web, with everyone on Facebook, Twitter and email talking about it), she's seen it, and probably blogged about it.
"Parents are definitely talking about the book, but most people just seem to be laughing at it — at the truth of it," Sachse continues.
"I don't see it as a sign of 'over-parenting.' It's just sharing frustration. Of course, you can't show that frustration to the child. But when the child's not in the room — that's when the expletives come out."
Actor Samuel L. Jackson, known for his expletive-filled tirades in movies like "Pulp Fiction" and "Snakes on a Plane," has already recorded an audio version of the book. He introduces it with: "I remember all those times when I did read to my daughter when she was that age. … I did say 'go the f— to sleep' to her a lot." (The book's back cover does recommend that parents not read it to their kids.)
There's even a movie deal in the works, which isn't too surprising given the book's popularity — or notoriety.
My mom, aunt and best friend all sent me pages from the electronic version as soon as people started talking about it, with notes promising, "this is absolutely hysterical" and "a bit cynical, and so real."
In fact, my mom sent it three times, but that might have been more of a technical issue. Mothers! Sometimes you wish they'd just stop calling to ask how to forward an email, and go the f – – to sleep.