Families really fascinate me. So much of my writing, looking back on it, has been about family.
Family teaches, controls, contains, cushions, protects, lures and repels us — all at the same time. It nurtures and carves us, in all the best, and sometimes the worst, ways.
As a parent, I am very aware of the everyday — and every-year! — challenges we face in raising our kids. Regularly, the task seems bigger than I have the skills for. Sometimes, it flows and feels good for everyone. But often it doesn’t, and I second-guess myself and become anxious about whether or not I’m doing a decent job of preparing these young things for their own time in the world. I suspect quite a few of us experience these sorts of feelings. I’m really grateful for the wonderful dad my husband is, and for the supportive — and often hilarious — conversations I have with other parents in the schoolyard on this topic. I’m so grateful to my kids’ teachers, who help to guide them in far more than what’s listed in the curriculum.
Yesterday after class, our school principal was having a chat with me and Master 11 about his day. She picked him up on how many times he was using the word ‘like’ in his conversation. I’d been observing this habit (through gritted teeth) but hadn’t wanted to correct him on it, since I’m onto him about so many other things … putting his dirty clothes in the wash, saying thank you to people who have done him a good turn, blowing his nose …! I now feel able to follow up on this small but important thing. Just another of the many things all parents are juggling every day.
I’m going to keep exploring families in my writing — their relationships and dynamics, struggles and joys. And as I do, I’ll take a moment to reflect on the fact that, when I’m writing, I can control everything that happens to my characters, even the hard stuff. I can make sure they have insight when they need to, or back off when that would be advisable. I can also write about their lack of insight, or their lack of grace. And while sometimes this is painful, always they are characters. Not my children. So much harder.
Being a writer is wonderful.