Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

June 10, 2002

Thanks to the Little People

Turning the Mommy Chronicles into a book was never a sure thing. Even though it was popular when it was featured on MSN, one publisher dismissed me as a writer without an audience. He put it like this: “She's a housewife with a cute idea.”

It was news to me that I am a housewife. I married a man, not a house.

It also was news to me that approaching parenthood with humor was cute. I'm not the first person to do this; nor will I be the last. As many parents know, you can either find the challenges funny, or you can throw yourself face-down on the carpet and beat your hands and feet into the ground -- if your toddler will move over and make room for you, that is.

But to the New York publishing world, motherhood is far less interesting than something like Canceled!, a book Bette Midler was to write about her sitcom that was canceled because not enough people watched it.

Before the book deal was called off, a publisher offered to pay Midler a million-dollar advance on the belief that people would pay to read about a show they would not watch for free.

Motherhood, meanwhile, turned out to be a much tougher sell. So, I started to pursue a self-publishing option, and was just about to do that when my very steadfast agent found a buyer -- one based in the eminently more sensible Midwest.

This was great news for me, though it meant the cover that my brilliant friend Sheryl made would probably not be used. Publishers like to generate their own covers for books, no doubt based on what has worked for them in the past.

The cover Sheryl made — the one you’ve gotten used to on my site — is really great, though. It features a modified version of one of the classic Fisher-Price “Little People.” Sheryl added hair, glasses and a huge belly so that the doll would look like a plastic version of me when I was pregnant. She nailed it. The cover was so great that publisher decided to use it. They just wanted to run it by the Fisher-Price people and make sure it was OK.

Why wouldn’t Fisher-Price, which makes lots of products for babies, want to be associated with a funny book about what it’s like to have a baby? After all, the people who buy those little toys are often the very same people who are having children. And, it was an old toy, not a new one, so no one would be confused.

And yet, Fisher-Price said no. Not even if the publisher paid them for the rights to do it.

I wasn’t part of the conversation, but I have been part of enough corporate prude-fests to know what they were thinking: that the image of a pregnant woman would undermine their “family friendly” brand.

After all, this is the same company that has trademarked the term “Loving Family” for one of its modern day Little People® product lines. The Loving Family™ comes with John™ the daddy, Linda™ the mommy and Ashley™ the baby. I am not kidding here. They really have trademarked the names John, Linda and Ashley, and if that is your name and you’re part of a Loving Family™, then I urge you to contact Fisher-Price and ask for permission to keep using your names.

The Loving Family also comes with furniture, including separate beds for John™ and Linda™. I look forward to the day when Lucy asks me why her doll parents sleep in separate beds, while Adam and I share one. If Loving Familes™ sleep alone, then surely, Lucy has parents who are sick, twisted and altogether unloving. Either that, or we're too poor to afford separate beds.

But at least Adam and I don’t make Lucy sleep in the attic like baby Ashley™ does. I guess I shouldn’t judge, though. Having a baby is hard work, and if John™ and Linda™ have to put their precious Ashley™ in the attic to cope with her crying, well, they’re a Loving Family™ and they’re clearly doing the best they can.

What’s more, since Little People® like John™ and Linda™ aren’t allowed to be pregnant or associate with dolls who have gotten themselves in the family way, they might not have had the time to adjust to little Ashley’s™ presence in their lives.

They might not have even wanted Ashley™ in the first place. Maybe she’s the daughter of their good-for-nothing cousin, who had the audacity to get knocked up, have a baby, then do the very unloving thing of being run down by an erratically driven Fisher-Price Bump 'n Crash Car™, leaving them to raise their niece in their otherwise perfect Home Sweet Home™.

We may never know.

But at least we can rest assured that Fisher-Price provided the Loving Family™ with a toilet, complete with a working lid. And this is a good thing.

As we parents know, children can be permanently damaged by the sight of a pregnant doll — perhaps as much as they are ruined by the sight of a real-life pregnant woman.

But a toilet? A toilet in any context is good, clean fun.

Thanks, Fisher-Price. The parents of the world can learn a lot from little people like you.


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