Tag Archives: children


Both my sons are out of the house, mostly, so now the “art” of practice isn’t about finding time to write between the particulars of parenting. Now the art of practice is making sense of the unfolding of the writer-self I carried beside, beneath, above and below my parenting-mothering-self. This is an interesting unfolding; to carry the metaphor perhaps too far, I thought the unfolding would look like a beautiful blanket of time and I would just wallow in its soft warmth and write.

Bwahahahaha says the goddess. How about I gift you with an inability to see your way through to fixing your marriage because you think he’s unreasonable, and then, once you’ve settled into a new rhythm of amicable separation and relatively happy singledomness, put a new person on your path, who reveals to you the extremely uncomfortable truth that you were fifty-percent the unreasonable reason the marriage wasn’t fixable? Howzabout you let someone’s offhand comment (“the reason marriages fail is people don’t know how to compromise”) tie you up in knots rather than forgiving yourself for your flaws and failures? Howzabout your Dad dies and executing his estate takes up most of your days for the better part of a year and your writing grinds to a halt? Howzabout the universe doesn’t have any paying work for you (the goddess is nearly peeing her pants with laughter here: you opted to stay home to raise kids so obviously you’re unqualified to answer the phones, or file papers)? Howzabout your younger son needs major surgery and then there’s a pandemic?

Howzabout everyone’s heart is broken and everyone is suffering and art has no point and you’re gonna die soon anyway and obviously if you were serious about being a writer you would have a body of work already published, so why bother? Bwahahahaha!

Bwahahahaha indeed. It’s the best and perhaps only option. This week I’m laughing at my attachment to my run streak … on my meditation app. I’m laughing at how the mice are coopting my fabulous blown-in insulation to build their nests in my shed, leaving their little turds EVERYWHERE. I’m laughing at how my attempt at going green by line-drying my clothes results in clothes smelling like mildew, resulting in my re-washing those clothes in bleach and hot water, thereby canceling out the energy saved by line drying. I’m laughing at how my existential despair about climate change is offset by my blatant joy at basking in the sun in November. I’m laughing at the words that came out of my mouth when a pal asked why I wasn’t blogging:

“I’m afraid I might offend someone,” I said.

She looked at me quizzically. “So?”

BwahahaHA!, says the goddess: you’ve forgotten the most basic rule for practicing any creative act at any time. Show up. Do it anyway.

May it be so.

Despite forgetting how to bwahahaha, my story “A Mother’s Modulated Reckoning” appeared in the terrific new online publication, Leon Literary Review earlier this year. Onward!

Permission Granted.

Today, intermittent rain spots the sidewalk; I am caught up on bills and laundry and General Tidying and finally read Suzi Banks Baum’s marvelous post of ten+ days ago–a post I didn’t read because I was doing dishes and laundry and catching up on bills.

As you’ll see when you read her words, or, even better, watch her video, the reasons for my delay is extremely ironic. Note: for those of us who have been the primary caretaker for children, please pee before watching. It has several moments that will bring you the howling laughter of recognition.

So today I will open my collage journal and make something new.

After I write.

May it be so for you, too.

Paying attention and honoring what we see …

My eldest son plays hard, Image by Jeannine Eddleton

I’m writing this as my older son sleeps, hopefully deeply enough to restore his depleted energy after yesterday’s intense soccer matches.  What a range of soccer parents schlep their kids to these games! There are of course the win-at-all-costs parents – and it’s not only dads who scream at players – but that is a stereotype, just as “the people” that are referred to during election seasons don’t fit into the stereotype of the shorthand labels we bandy about like Truth. When it comes down to it, most Tea Partiers, moderate Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, in checkout lines and over a cup of coffee, would manage to find commonalities. Everyone has red blood.

And we all support our kids. No matter how we support them in their passions, most of us make an effort because we love our children and want to honor the spark of life manifest in their desires. Best as we can, we notice, nurture, and navigate the world to facilitate setting their ever-growing-and-when-they’re-teenage-soccer-players-STINKY feet on paths that in our (necessarily limited) experience will help them discover whether or not their passion is vocation, avocation or occasional hobby.


ye Olde Typewriter, Image by jcbonbon via Flickr

My parents were among the first to show me the path I’m on now. They read to me, gave me books from their childhood – and when I happily scrawled my own stories in kindergarten, they hied me to the library weekly, pointed out books about writers, outfitted an old desk with an equally old (manual!) typewriter and all the scrap paper I wanted. I wasn’t sent to any special camps, but they certainly honored what they witnessed in me.

Nonetheless: when I see a van full of kids being chauffeured down the interstate to soccer tournaments, or youth orchestra, or juggling classes, an echo of an interview rings in my head.

A female author was sharing her story of achieving success in her forties after a twenty-year hiatus (cannot for the life of me remember who it was, my apologies). She’d achieved a modicum of publishing success immediately after college, then fell in love and had a child. And a second. Not surprisingly, her creative output trickled and ceased. She’d found a mentor before she’d begun childrearing, and when she and her partner were debating adding a third child to their family, the mentor opined: every child you have is another novel you will not write.

I heard this while driving to work, pregnant with the boy who is now snoring quietly in the adjacent room (yes, I am drafting this in the hotel room’s bathroom, so the lights don’t wake him up, my forty-something butt cushioned by hotel towels).

The mentor was correct. I certainly have three or four collections of ideas and plot outlines and free writes that, given time enough, could well be novels, but probably won’t be. Because I am raising children as well as writing.

Portrait of Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf: proof positive that great art is unrelated to one's parental status.

The mentor was also incorrect.  Despite the real and metaphorical headaches of bringing up my boys, and the incredible amount of time they consume, I could not possibly write as I do if I were not a parent. I imagine my writing would be different (not better or worse, different) if Engineer Hubby and I had remained child-free. This is certainly NOT to say those who aren’t parents don’t create complex, rich, and marvelous art. Arguably, since historically men have comprised the majority of the artist class and, also historically, they were very minimally involved in the grind of parenting, it’s hardly a requirement for great art. Or lousy art.

However, bottom line, one needs extended periods of solitude to make *anything* (nine months gestations for humans plus 18 years for ripening … no wonder Donna Tartt takes a decade per novel!), so hands-on parenting necessarily compromises those of us with artistic bents.  “Oh, but it’s worth it,” we say, after griping about our finicky eaters or the history teacher who doesn’t understand our precious progeny.

Actually, it’s not worth it, financially, for many of us. Nor is it even metaphorically worth it on the days consumed by the thrust-and-parry around their so-called “needs.” (I NEED an Xbox. Uh, no, you don’t. You need to get your ass outside and run a couple miles so you’re too tired to whine about material goods. Then you need to take out the compost so your mother doesn’t use words no former English major should unleash on her children before they’re twenty-one.)

Kids! Image by the awesome Anne Jacobsen

But our lives, with all the warts, whining, and wasted moments, are what we have to work with. The consequences of our choices, be they nights of passion or carefully plotted and sought-after goals, are with us. Here. Now. Though they won’t always be (we have fewer years with our kids at home before us than we have behind us).

These moments, on these days, the choices I make to write or not write, even if only for five minutes, is all that is. Annie Dillard is credited with the succinct, truthful observation that “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

She’s right. If I want to write, even if it’s only for my eyes only, even if I aim for publication and fail, then I have to do it. Writers write. Period.

My parents noticed and honored the writer they saw in their little girl. Surely, even as I pass the gift of honor on to my sons, and chauffeur them hither and yon, I can continue to honor my own girl. Reading stories and making up my own, scrap paper at the ready.