I do not love to play with my kids, but I do love to read to them.
For some time now, I have been wanting to write about one of my favorite mothers in all of children's literature. I don't know her name, but she was created by Russell Hoban in the 1960s and is the mother of Frances the Badger. She is also, incidentally, the mother of Gloria, but I don't get the sense that Gloria gives her quite the run for her money that Frances does.
My favorite moment in all of her excellent mothering occurs in the story Bread and Jam for Frances. Frances is singing annoying little songs about and refusing to eat all of the delicious food her mother prepares for her, opting instead for bread and jam at every meal. After Frances rejects first a soft-boiled egg for breakfast, a chicken-salad sandwich for lunch, and finally breaded veal cutlets with string beans and a baked potato at dinner, her mother tries a new strategy. The next day, Frances gets bread and jam instead of a poached egg for breakfast, she gets bread and jam (and milk) in her lunchbox at school, and she gets a nice snack of bread and jam after school. At this point she asks her mother, "Aren't you worried that maybe I will get sick and all my teeth will fall out from eating so much bread and jam?" To this her mother sweetly replies, "I don't think that will happen for quite a while, so eat it all up and enjoy it."
This is the part of the book where I start laughing and can't stop. I say this little line to myself throughout the day after reading this book, and it always brings a smile: "I don't think that will happen for quite a while."
That night at dinner, instead of the spaghetti and meatballs the rest of the family is having, Frances gets bread and jam. When she begins to cry, her mother says, "My goodness! Frances is crying!" When Frances asks for spaghetti and meatballs like everyone else, her mother responds, so innocently, "I had no idea you liked spaghetti and meatballs!" This time when she serves Frances her dinner, Frances eats it all up with no complaints, and, more importantly, no annoying little songs.
This badger mother is a genius: she is devious, she is innocent, she is sincere, she is ruthless. She is a psychologist and an actress to boot. Characters like her make reading a pleasure.