Alternate title: Alexander the Cranky Brat and his Negligent, Cold-Hearted Mother
Now that we live in suburbia and have access to a delightfully clean, well-stocked and 99% hobo-free library, one of my first orders of business was to get Bubba hooked up with his very own library card so he could start enjoying the excitement of a constant rotation of new reading material. (Also, they have kickin’ air conditioning in there and it’s a fabulous way to kill an hour on a hot afternoon.) After spending a few minutes knocking down every block in the children’s area and likely annoying everyone in the entire building, Bubba turned his attention to the books and made some selections. Based on the cover illustration alone — he was intrigued by that upside-down skateboard on Alexander’s filthy floor — the first book he chose for his foray into library patronage was the 1970’s-era monstrosity Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Have you read this thing? Somehow I missed it in my own childhood (the grumpy scowl on that punk’s face would have precluded me from ever so much as touching this book, I assure you), but after reading it with my son no fewer than six bajillion times in the past five days (conservative estimate), I can safely say I was not missing out on anything. This innocent-looking tale is riddled with terrible behavior from the titular Alexander, and the treatment he receives from his virtually absentee mother raises some alarming red flags.
The plot of the book is simple: Alexander spends the entire book sulking about everyday irritations that should not, under normal circumstances, be cause for more than a passing complaint, much less be cited as ruining your entire freakin’ day: tripping on a skateboard, having to eat lima beans, and being relegated to the middle seat during car pool. I’ll give him a pass on his friend being mean to him and the dentist discovering a cavity; either of those can certainly put a damper on your day — but the rest of his complaints are just plain over the top.
Even Bubba was baffled by Alexander’s attitude. For starters, the dear lad couldn’t quite wrap his head around the concept of a “bad day” in general. “But why he not cheer up, Mama?” He asked, quite reasonably. “He gonna be happy a little bit later!”
And, like me, he found Alexander’s level of upset to be disproportionate to his problems. There’s a scene where Alexander bemoans the lack of treats in his lunchbox whilst his pals devour chocolate and cupcakes (and really, Albert’s mom? TWO cupcakes in your kid’s lunchbox? Good luck with that diabetes diagnosis next year), and while Bubba was somewhat sympathetic to Alexander in this particular instance (who wouldn’t want a little dessert?), he was also quick to point out that Alexander was leaving the rest of his perfectly good lunch un-touched. “It’s OK, Alexander,” he said consolingly, speaking directly to the book. “Don’t forget about your sammich! And you gots some milk over there!!”
Seriously, Alexander: a freakin’ toddler is telling you to take a chill pill. Simmer down, drama queen.
Even worse than Alexander’s bitching and moaning, though, is his mother’s reaction — or shall I say, her non-reaction — to Alexander’s plight. Sure, Alexander is undoubtedly overreacting to 99% of his “bad day,” but he is just a kid, and we all know that kids can be kind of emotionally stupid at times. So where are the hugs? The kind words? The encouragement? NOWHERE TO BE FOUND, that’s where. Never ONCE does this woman so much as cast a kind look in her poor kid’s direction, much less lay a tender hand upon his disheveled little head! The closest we get to seeing some compassion from this monster is on the penultimate page, when Alexander remarks that his mom says “some days are like that.” Gee, thanks, Mom. I totally feel better now.
And I swear I’m not just overanalyzing things — Bubba noticed her absence, too! “Why his mama not help him?” he inquired when Alexander complained about his bath being too hot. “Why his mama be mad at him with da mud?” he demanded after Alexander got into a muddy tussle with his brother. Most touchingly (and saddest of all for Alexander), Bubba took note of the lack of space for Alexander’s mother in Alexander’s bed (we do a lot cuddling around these parts, and Bubba’s bed contains one pillow for him and one for me to use when I’m in there with him). “There’s no space for his mama!” He cried. “Where’s her pillow?! How they gonna do some hugs?”
Yes, Alexander’s mother, explain yourself: HOW YOU GONNA DO SOME HUGS?
While I’m thoroughly annoyed with this book at this point (and we still have two more weeks before we have to return it! HELP), I am glad we borrowed it, as it has done wonders for my confidence as a mother. The fact that even at his young age, Bubba is wise enough to recognize the need to keep things in perspective instead of flipping out over a lack of dessert in your lunch seems like a pretty good accomplishment…and while I’m not sure what I did to make him think like that, I’ll go ahead and take credit for his maturity since I’m his mom and thus it must be related to my awesome parenting. This is not a kid who’s going to let a little muddy puddle ruin his day:
“MOM I FOUND SOME PINECONES AND GUESS WHAT THESE TWO AIN’T EVEN THE HALF OF IT, THERE ARE LIKE A HUNDRED MORE DOWN THERE COME ON LET ME SHOW YOU LET’S GO LET’S GO!!!!”
But when a bad day does eventually rear its ugly head, Bubba knows he should be able to rely on me for comfort and encouragement — and that feels like an even bigger accomplishment. Keep that space in bed ready for me, Bud.