JP’s kindergarten class has a nice little library from which the children are allowed to borrow books and bring them home. JP does so regularly and we read the book before he goes to bed. Heartwarming stuff, particularly as the reading period is that wonderful moment just before both kids (usually) disappear for the night’s sleep and I get a few hours to pretend I am human.
I rarely pay much attention to what I’m reading him, as most books from the school library are boring to the point of nausea, as they must strive to educate and not to offend before offering a story. I motor through them, JP reading a page and then me, and then we’re done.
The one from last night gave me some pause, though. The title was bland enough: In the Park With Dad by Karen Ackerman. How sweet! A book about dads. JP has been going through a rather rebellious phase of late and if he’s showing affection for me again, I’m all for it. Then I turn the page and see the subtitle: “A Story for Kids Whose Parents Don’t Live Together.”
Turns out the book, which was published in 1996, is a weird sort of primer for children freaking out over their parents’ divorces. Now, there may be a companion book about shopping at the mall with Mom, or whatever, but I found this a little offensive. The narrative describes a super-fun day in the park with dad, hanging out, playing, but one that ends with the children dutifully returned to the Custodial Mom. They pass out on the couch, where they sleep the sleep of the doomed, not thinking that when they wake up half-time dad will be gone. (I have to admit I skipped this part–I wasn’t going to read the part about the weekend dad, and how that is totally normal and wonderful to JP).
Sheesh. I had some thoughts, once I had recovered from this circa-1965 vision of divorce and the variables of custody: had JP chosen the book because he was upset about the divorce? Was he sad that I had been working such late hours at my new job? Did the teacher give it to him because she knows JP’s mother and I are divorced and she assumed he didn’t live with me?
I asked the teacher about it the next morning and she said JP had picked it without knowing the story. He just liked it because it was about Dad, which is nice. She hadn’t encouraged him, which was nice, too. I haven’t entirely processed my thinking as to how I would have reacted if I had learned she had steered him towards it. But I wouldn’t have liked it. I am well aware that my family situation, while not wholly uncommon, isn’t entirely conventional. What issues and problems arise from it I would prefer to handle on my own.
By reading Dr. Seuss.