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Book Review: “I Heart my Little A-Holes”

Book Review: “I Heart my Little A-Holes”

I brought my almost seven-year-old daughter to one of those family events recently. You know, the kind where kids run from one table to the next, doing art projects that you’ll throw away that night after they go to bed and eat too many frost-your-own cookies while begging for over-priced bake-sale items. This event also had bunnies, pigs, baby chickens and goats to pet, plus PONY RIDES. Win for me, right? Take the kid to something like this, get to witness her having all this fun and I’m showered with “Oh-my-god-Mom-you’re-the-coolest-Mom-ever-thank-you-for-taking-me” for the rest of the day. Uh, no. I ended up standing around in a yard for four hours with maybe all of three places to sit while my daughter had the time of her life. Did I mention I’m 8 ½ months pregnant? 

Ten minutes before the event ended, my toes long since turned into Lil’ Smokey sausages on the ends of my cankles, I told my kid it was time to go for the fifth time. She took off to frost another cupcake and ate it in one bite while she ran to do another messy painting project before asking the woman with an aquarium full of the sleepiest chicks if she could hold one just one more time. When I caught up with her, she started to walk out with me, but stopped at a table to get a pig mask where a little girl was getting her face painted with sparkles. My kid asked to make a mask, eyeing the girl with sparkly dots being applied to her nose and cheeks. 

“Mom,” she said, tugging on my shirt.  Her face had been painted an hour ago to look like a dog. “Mom, I need sparkles on my face.”

“No, you don’t, sweetie, it’s time to go.”

Over the next half hour that it took to walk halfway around a block to the car, my kid lost her entire Netflix queue for a week and proceeded to tell me she no longer loved me. Also that she hated me forever and I never did anything that she wants to do. By the time we got to the car and I’d forced her small frame into the backseat so I could sit down, I said, “Do you even realize what a jerk you’re being right now?” But I didn’t want to say “jerk.” Oh, no. I wanted to say fuckin’ asshole.    

Calling your kid an asshole behind their back is freeing. I highly recommend it. I remember the first time I heard Louis CK’s “Shameless” stand-up where he said the words, “I have a daughter, she’s four, and she’s a fuckin’ asshole.” It took a while, but I started saying it myself. Only to people I felt safe around. Recognizing your child’s asshole tendencies and finding parents to commiserate with you about it relieves you from the pressure society emits to find the precious moments in every fleeting second you have with your little spawns. 

This is what made Karen Alpert, AKA Baby Sideburns, go out on a limb to write a book titled “I Heart My Little A-holes.” She no longer wanted to hide behind the smiling, well-pressed and neatly dressed photos that parents post online, and instead brought out the images of discovering your children have splattered your entire kitchen with the berry smoothies you’d just made them, or laugh at how your butt jiggles when you brush your teeth naked. She wanted to reach out to that mom who’s having her first day alone with her newborn and has a fleeting thought of returning her to the hospital by way of tossing her out the car window on a drive-by.

Alpert opens the doors to her home, minivan, and even lets us follow her indulgent trips to the bathroom or Target to show the real side of parenting. The fat pants, braless, unshowered pony-tail side where “lunch” means a wrinkled hot dog.  It’s full of confessions to situations most people wouldn’t admit or even discuss, but Alpert has laid it all out in one book for you so that if you don’t identify with it, maybe you’ll at least feel like a better mom than her when you’re done. She even has a chapter listing fifteen reasons why she’s a worse mom than you.  Some I identified with, like “Back when I nursed if I had a glass of wine I secretly hoped it would make my son sleep better,” and some that totally grossed me out, like “When I find a Cheerio on the ground at home, if I don’t have pockets or a trash can, I just eat it.” I shared her urges to strangle Caillou, and her realization that no matter how well she scrubs her fingers, they still smell like poop after changing a blow-out diaper. 

Alpert’s book is nowhere near a parenting guide or even attempting to lead by example. It’s granting you copious amounts of permission to laugh at parenting instead of feeling the pressures to improve it. Because if we don’t find ways to laugh at ourselves, we could lose the grasp on what little sanity we have left.

Want to purchase a copy of Karen's book? Click on the link below!

Categories: reviews & interviews

Stephanie Land

Stephanie Land's work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Vox, Salon, and many other outlets. She focuses on social and economic justice as a writing fellow through the Center for Community Change, and through the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Her memoir, MAID: A Single Mother's Journey from Cleaning House to Finding Home, is forthcoming through Hachette Books. She writes from Missoula, Montana, where she lives with her two daughters.
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