Yesterday Moomin read “The Twits” three times in a row. I had dragged him to the copy shop where I was working on making my little translation zine. I had a cold. I was working for hours. I was grumpy. In fact, I confess I snapped at him when he got stuck in the copy store bathroom unable to push the door open — and when I say “unable” it’s not because the door was big or heavy or difficult — it was just that he gave up after try one and began howling in despair. You’d think I could accept this with grace, since he was independent enough to sit for two hours in this boring office, quiet as a mouse, while I worked… but no… I was cranky and mean when he got stuck in the strange bathroom. Hell.
The Twits is an excellent book for a 2nd grader. It’s about two mean horrible people who fight and play mean tricks on each other all day long. They eat cute little birds and have a cage full of monkeys that they abuse horribly. Really, sounds a little bit dark, doesn’t it? But it’s funny… and it provides the sort of distancing from meanness and abuse that I think is good for opening the subject with kids.
Moomin was enthralled. We talked about how the Twits were the meanest people ever in the history of the universe. “And they said….” he dropped his voice low to a whisper… “they said the monkeys were *stupid*!!! That’s really, really mean!”
I apologized for being grumpy! But then, when we got home, I couldn’t manage to do anything but turn on the TV for him and lie in bed, sick as a dog.
There’s another book that I love for moments when my parenting is maybe not the most stellar. “The Winter Picnic” (by Robert Welber) has this kid telling his busy mom that he wants to have a picnic. She’s dismissive and isn’t listening. So he prepares the whole picnic by himself, making plates and cups out of snow and laying out sandwiches and potato chips. Finally she follows him to the picnic and realizes she was being …. well, stupid.