Babies Ruin Everything, by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr. MacMillan, 2016.
Dr. V’s take:
*deep breath* Okay.
I took my kids to the library today, and it did not go well. I hereby anonymously apologize to the librarians, the other patrons, the security guard, and the janitor.
(It really did not go well.)
Yet though I mostly followed through on my threat not to bring any books home if my youngest spawn—-who I should probably note is my baby, but no longer an actual baby—-didn’t get his shit together (a disciplinary act which I am not going to reflect on the efficacy or validity of because I can. not. even. anymore with how much the library did not go well), I did manage to sneak this one in based on the title alone: Babies Ruin Everything, by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr.
It….was for me. The book Babies Ruin Everything was for me, because that’s how I was feeling, and it seemed like the little girl on the cover knew what was up, and I needed a like-minded friend.
And now I’m telling everyone, even those of you who can’t necessarily describe yourself and a preschooler as “like-minded” at the moment, to hightail it over the library and borrow yourself and your kid this book. If they don’t have it, request it. And then go buy a copy for your friend who is having a baby shower.
Babies Ruin Everything is the best kids’ book I have read in a long time. It’s the kind of uber-versatile title that one can read: by oneself, when one feels like having a tantrum about one’s babies; with the baby who is driving one crazy, to make both parties laugh and remind them how and why they are able to like each other day to day, beyond just the big-picture family love stuff; and especially with all of one’s babies, so they can form their own way of interacting with it that has nothing whatever to do with one.
Babies Ruin Everything hits all of my favorite things about good children’s books.
Interesting, perhaps a little irreverent, lead character? check.
Dope illustrations? check.
Not too short, but, dear god, not too long? check.
Is it true?
Check. Babies Ruin Everything is about one little girl—-with mayyyybe a teeny slight bit of an attitude problem, ahem—-telling the unvarnished truth about what it means to bring a new person into the world and your life. She clearly feels that babies are a bit of an emperor-has-no-clothes situation: why does everyone pretend like they love and are delighted by this being who does nothing but make messes and noise and trouble?
A turning point comes when she, after bursting with frustration when pushed to the breaking point, regrets her actions and has to take a look in the mirror: maybe, she muses, it isn’t the baby. Maybe, in some ways, perhaps….it’s me.
This is a huge, huge thing for anybody to realize about themselves, and to then choose to be kinder instead of defensive is so hard; it’s practically unheard-of in a little kid. Yet Swanson and Behr write it in a way that feels so natural—-it seems like an articulation of a calculation that I feel I’ve seen kids make many times, though they might not have been able to put it so succinctly into words.
This may be partly because the manner in which our mischievous protagonist “chooses kindness” is authentically goofy and a pain in the butt for her parents. Though I empathize with the parents at the end, of course, it’s difficult not to be charmed by the big sister and baby in such cozy cahoots—-and even to begrudgingly hope that my own kids are such a happy team, even if that means they unite against me sometimes.
(and also the entire library. again: I’m so sorry.)