We ran across this horrible little book at the pediatrician’s today. It was called Ken-chan and the Zei Zeis or something similarly innocuous.
Zei Zei is the Japanese onomatopoeia for wheezing. Me Too is learning to read in Japanese (pretty much on her own,) and she saw this and wanted to read it.
It started off innocently enough. Every evening, little Ken-chan goes to bed and is visited by the “Zei Zei Monster.” (Okay, so maybe that’s a little Brothers Grimm-ish for English readers, but pretty common fare for Japanese picture books.) The Zei Zei Monster teases him and makes him cough.
Ken-chan asks the monster why he is so strong.
(And this is where the story starts to piss me off.)
The monster tells Ken-chan it is because he loves messy rooms, children who don’t take their medicine, and tobacco smoke.
The next page is a picture of Ken-chan picking up his toys while his moms vaccuums.
Then of course, the next night Ken-chan is able to beat the Zei Zei Monster, then wakes up refreshed and powerful and ready to take on the world (while his mom serves him a well balanced breakfast in the background.)
When we got home, Me Too immediately starts picking up her toys. She’s gotten the message loud and clear. She has asthma because the house isn’t clean enough! If we work harder, than she won’t have to cough at night anymore!
She has asthma because she had RSV as an infant. And even if that wasn’t the reason, kids don’t get asthma because their moms don’t vacuum 24 hours a day.
What do you think parents are thinking about on those nights when their child cannot get more than two consecutive minutes of sleep, when they are changing the sheets again after a child has coughed until he threw up? Do you really think they aren’t racking their brains, trying to think of any positive little thing they could do to help their child? And do you think banishing the house of dust or allergens hasn’t crossed their minds? And to imply that the child leaving toys around the house is somehow responsible for his own asthma….I don’t have the words.
Well, actually, I do have the words. Fuck. You.
I could go on about how that little book made me feel bad, or the repercussions of other parents seeing it, but what really bothers me is that you gave my little girl false hope.
Sure, I would love it if she cleaned up her Barbies. But that won’t be some magic panacea that stops the coughing, and now I have to explain that to her.
So please take your horrid little book, Ken-chan, and please go away.