Also see: Floaty, for another inexplicably grouchy older man rescued by a dog.
Older Adult’s Problem: Bad attitude & general curmudgeonlyness.
Youth Savior Solution: Mockery.
The Moral: Be a dick to older people. That will cheer them up.
This list is going to get harder as we go on, because we’re getting into the books I actually like. I adore Christian Robinson, and Linda Ashman’s books are often inoffensively solid in validating childhood challenges.
We actually read this book frequently to the kids, it’s particularly wonderful for the 4-6 age range when kids start to see every inconvenience as a grave insult and injustice. I like that it normalizes a kind and gentle boy of color. It helps us unpack the concept of perspective – how we have agency in seeing the things that happen to us, choosing our response to it, and how that informs what happens next.
But okay, here we go. This older man. He’s so grouchy. Why is he so grouchy? We don’t see how maybe, his dog died. Or his wife died of cancer. Or how he just got laid off from his job ‘to make room’ for younger (re: lower paid) employees.
He’s just grouchy. And that’s a problem – because the Grouchy Curmudgeon is a trope in kidlit that needs to die. It’s a stereotype that we grab when we’re too pressed for time (or lazy) to come up with scaffolding or back-stories on what causes an upset person to be upset.
For those of us who have been dismissed because we’re ‘getting too upset’ – due to our gender, our race, our disabilities, whatever, we recognize the way our identities are used to silence us when we have very valid reasons to speak up. People aren’t just naturally grouchy.
I mean sure, my default disposition is slightly to the left of irritable, compared to say, Santa Claus. But also Santa is a rich white man who grew up beloved and believed in despite multiple facts to the contrary…wait I’m just proving my case, never mind.
I mean to say – we can’t teach our kids that some folks are just grumpy and need to get over themselves. The solution isn’t to be super-duper cheery at them, nor is it to mock them until they get a sense of humor and catch up to the youths. We need to listen and then work for radical change that gets to the root of that curmudgeonlyness (this is a word now, I’m making this a word and you can’t stop me.) Or at the very least, hand the man his hat and just leave the dude alone.
If you know it’s rude to tell a strange woman to smile, ’cause she looks prettier that way, then you can see how expecting this guy to cheer up to make everyone around him happy is kind of problematic.