When I was heavily pregnant with the Boy Child, I pulled out my old collection of Little Golden Books to add to his nursery shelves, with a head full of dreams of sitting in the rocking chair and reading to my future baby.
Despite the rampantly sexist undertones and gender roles forming the basis of these two stories, I found myself sitting on the nursery floor, flicking through the pages, and imagining a future of working side by side with my children to create a happy and harmonious home.
The beautifully illustrated pages told me all I would ever need to know about parenting.
My child, like Sue and Benjy, and Martha and Bobby, would naturally want to help us with the household chores, because of course, in that pre-baby Utopia, where we are all perfect parents, with flawless offspring, it seemed to be a given that my children would enjoy tasks such as rolling out the pastry with me to make a treat for daddy, and trimming the hedges, or washing the car. And of course they’d be willing to pack up the toys.
Then, I actually had kids, and I realised one important truth.
These books are full of shit, and kids are jerks.
In the books, Benjy tells his dad about a nail sticking out of the door, because he’s worried that someone might get hurt.
In my house, it’s not uncommon for my children to physically step over piles of clothing and craft materials, completely overlooking the dishes they’ve left on the table, or the doritos packet they’ve dropped at the side of the couch. They wouldn’t notice a nail sticking out of the door if they walked right into it, and even then, I don’t think they’d care that much, unless it somehow inhibited their access to YouTube.
In the books, Benjy and Sue help daddy wash the car, with each of them taking on a role, while daddy watches on with pride.
In my house, I turn my back to start filling the bucket with water, and both kids piss off upstairs to watch TV, pretending that they can’t hear me screeching at them to get their sorry arses back downstairs to finish the job.
In the books, Martha thanks her mother for the delicious meal she’s made, and takes her clean plate to the sink to be washed..
In my house, just tonight, I counted 13 complaints that my darlings made about the dinner on offer, and that was before anyone had even taken a bite. The plates certainly didn’t end up empty, and I’m pretty sure I uttered something along the lines of everyone needing to cook their own damn dinner, because I AM DONE.
In the books, the kids help daddy to screw on a new handle on the clothes dresser drawer.
In my house, if I had a dresser drawer, it wouldn’t be visible underneath the piles of crap that my children would hoard on top of it, so no one would actually ever know if it was missing a handle. In fact, it probably would be missing ALL the handles, because the Girl Child would have commandeered them for a craft assignment, and most likely, the dresser would be covered in stickers and other assorted graffiti, which is mostly why I wouldn’t mind too much that it was covered with crap.
In the books, the parents don’t seem to yell, or bribe, or threaten, or coerce, or use any kind of passive-aggressive signage or body language.
And this is the part where I finally figured it out.
The truth to the whole confusing picture; the explanation as to why their houses were so different to mine
The pages that obviously got edited out of those books all those years ago, were the pages where Mommy crushed a Valium into her morning orange juice, and drank vodka from a tea cup as she prepared daddy’s pastry surprise. And the page where she slipped a big hit of Phenergan into the kids dinner, before pouring herself and daddy a scotch in the evening. Oh and the page where daddy was loading up his pipe with some sweet sweet sweeeeeeet tobacco.
Life in Little Golden Book land was perfect because everyone was smashed and sedated.
So, don’t feel bad if you find that your kids don’t quite measure up to Bobby and Martha’s standards of helpfulness around the home.
What I didn’t realise when I used to love these books so much, is that they really were the 1970s version of Instagram, and for the most part, as pretty as the pictures are, there’s as much truth in them as there is actual meat in a footy frank.
Keep it real, folks, and when all else fails, pour a scotch.