One of my family’s favorite restaurants is S&S Restaurant in Inman Square in Cambridge. I particularly love the little Jewish inside joke of the restaurant’s name—“S&S” is actually “Es and es,” a shorthand for a favorite Yiddish refrain of the restaurant’s last-century matriarch, a stern yet familiarly loving-looking woman known as Ma Edelstein. “Eat and eat,” it means.
The stereotypical Jewish mother is, of course, both eager for you to eat (and eat), and worried that you’re not eating enough. Many of us carry this and other iterations of picky eater baggage through our parenting lives, whether we’re concerned our kids are literally undernourished, irritated with the dearth of healthy foods our children allow to pass their lips, or simply dreading our mother-in-law’s Thanksgiving comments about how the little ones aren’t pulling their weight.
Fueling all of these anxieties are the usual litany of parenting emotions—guilt about those trips to McDonald’s, fear that our kids won’t do well in math because they don’t get enough omega-3s, and frustration at yet another area where our kids Just. Won’t. Listen. To. Us.
In a statement, Mansbach said he considered many possible topics for a sequel before settling on food intake. “Eating is the other universal source of parental anxiety,” he said, “a battle of wills just as pitched as sleep can be. From my own experiences and plenty of conversations with other parents, it seemed like a topic folks could use a laugh and a bit of catharsis about.”
Mansbach, who says he was not a picky eater himself as a child, told Mashable he’s observed a particular brand of frustration parents experience when they have kids who won’t engage in the fundamental act of eating food. “Trying to get a kid to put on her shoes might be crazy-making,” he said, “but it’s not quite the same as having her reject the basic concept of sustenance. It seemed to me like a universal experience, and one that parents would welcome the chance to commune over and laugh about.”
The book is packed with memorable gems, those if-only-I-could-actually-say-this-to-my-child bits couched in the familiar rhythm of a storybook that made “Go the F*** to Sleep” so perfectly pitched. In his sweetly subversive rhymes, Mansbach gives parents permission to push back (even if it’s just under our breaths) against the tiny tyrants who have this way of bringing out equal depths of love and exasperation in us. Here’s a delicious example:
The sunrise is golden and lovely,
The birds chirp and twitter and tweet.
You woke me and asked for some breakfast,
So why the f*** won’t you eat?
Or this celebration of the futility of trying to use logic on a hungry, resistant tot:
The bunnies are munching on carrots,
The lambs nibble grasses and bleat.
I know you’re too hungry to reason with but
You have to f***ing eat.
Now, don’t throw your kid’s uneaten mac and cheese at me, but I’m lucky enough to have a 3-year-old who is (so far) a stellar eater of (mostly) healthy foods. But I’ll be picking up a copy of Mansbach’s new book all the same, because even if Ma Edelstein would be proud of my boy, I’m always on the lookout for anything that captures the daily confusing, love-filled, dizzying tornado that is parenting. So this Thanksgiving, I think we can all be grateful Mansbach has given us the chance to help ourselves to seconds.