Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Our Monday Evening

by Tom Bozzo

Someone gave us a copy of Robert Munsch's Love You Forever at some point; I don't remember who it was. It's about the love between a mother and son from infancy through adulthood. Echoing the consensus of the playgroup, a reviewer from the Regina (SK) Public Library described it as "sentimentality at its worst" but noted its devastating effectiveness:
Munsch plays on the sentiments of his listeners to provoke a reaction that he will no doubt receive. A good supply of kleenex tissues will be needed.
Indeed, I'd paged through it once a long time ago, and after finding a tissue, tucked it away where it was unlikely to be extracted by a casually browsing toddler. In some respects, it's better and in others, it's even worse than that. In an absurdist turn, it literally depicts something I actually hear from my own mother: No matter how grown up I get, I'm still her baby. That would be nicer were the humor not pretty well drowned in the sentimentality, though. The 'worse' part, in my view, is that Munsch relies on a crude stereotype of the boy as basically a terror between infancy and adulthood. Yet his mother loves him anyway! (*)

Unfortunately, John is now a much more curious little boy, has found LYF, and wanted it read to him shortly after my return home from work yesterday. He had skipped his nap. Julia, who is teething (molars) and suffering from the same cold as me, skipped both naps. I massively overcaffeinated myself before work and crashed around lunchtime. We were all frayed.

Suzanne took a shot at the book, and barely made it a page. I took over, and made it into the boy's early adulthood, but only by skipping the sentimental song that's repeated throughout the book. I eventually lost it, too, creating a very irate boy who demanded to have the rest read to him. (But I'm glad to see Brayden King write that similar things happen to other people. This makes me not feel so bad about getting misty when Luke and Leia are born in ROTS, which I view as a general parent reaction to new babies, which I found unmoving before having my own.) Then our aged laser printer refused to print out some TtFTE coloring pages in finite time. I don't remember what the calming influence was — dinner, maybe.

We did enjoy some mean reversion in the form of a relatively smooth bedtime experience. John even said "I love you, Daddy!" after thanking me for tucking him in. Sniff. Then Suzanne had the brilliant idea of making butter spritz cookies, and while our manual cookie press is a workout in itself (**), the evening was redeemed.

(*) Which is not to say that this can't be more-or-less literally true, as John or Julia can act their respective ages in the worst possible way, but then all is forgiven when they climb on my lap to read (e.g.) a TtFTE story or The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

(**) We had been given an electric press at one point, but I managed to burn out its wimpy motor with the Betty Crocker spritz recipe. I keep my eye out for a more robust unit a la my mother's Wear-Ever Super Shooter, which is a large fraction of my age and apparently still ticking, but none of the kitchen stores of the upper Midwest seem to have anything matching its description.
I should introduce myself - I’m a fellow Madisonian who surfed over from Phantom Scribbler’s blog. This is weird synchronicity. I attended a baby shower this past weekend where that book was highly recommended so I ordered a copy from Amazon yesterday. It sounds like it’s probably not appropriate for my 20-month-old, good to know.
Thanks for introducing yourself, Candace, and welcome!

LYF seems to generate strong reactions positive and negative. See here for an extensive listserv discussion with lots of points pro and con.

The story probably is a bit wordy for a 20-month-old, and our 3-year-old definitely didn't get what the fuss was about.
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