Tuesday, August 08, 2006

book review

"We Help Daddy," by Mini Stein, is a Little Golden book from 1962. While caring for Benjy and Sue, who are about 4 and almost-2 respectively, Daddy is able to get more done than Dan and I could in a month of Saturdays. He fixes the attic door, weeds and waters the garden, trims the hedge, bathes the dog, paints the kitchen fence, and hangs a painting in the living room. Calculating best-case-scenarios for the times these things would take, and assuming that Benjy and Sue are able to manage all of their own physical needs without interrupting Daddy (even though Sue is pre-verbal), I can envision how all this MIGHT get done. But then they decide to build a birdhouse, collect and chop firewood, wash and polish the car, replace a knob on Benjy's dresser, and pull a nail out of the bathroom door. Finally, the poor kids get to eat supper, after which "we are very, very sleepy" (no doubt!) and they go to bed.

Based on my frustration with our task-completion time, Dan is convinced that I must have had this book as a child. I don't have any memory of it, but Pa Ingalls was pretty darn productive too, so perhaps my expectations are too high. Or have they sunk too low? We've needed to replace the knobs on A's dresser for about a month now; our garden is somewhat less of a Darwinian experiment than in past years, but it still doesn't look like our neighbors'; we're lucky if we get the kids bathed before they start to stink, much less the dog; and we've never built anything without having to re-cut at least one piece of wood that didn't fit the first time. We suspect, however, that Benjy and Sue's Daddy spent the last three months drunk every weekend, and Mommy has threatened to leave him if he doesn't take the kids and get this list done so she can bake cookies (we see her cheerily rolling out dough through the window in one scene) and make dinner in peace.

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