Friday, November 29, 2019

...but then her kids became people

I fell in love with the power of a perfectly-crafted sentence when I was in second grade.

Ms. Davis was one of my least favorite teachers ever. She rarely smiled, had a raspy, nicotine voice, and had some sort of scarring on her neck that scared the hell out of my 7-year-old little self. But every day after lunch, she would perch herself upon a wooden stool and read aloud a chapter from Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I fell completely in love with mischievous little Ramona. When Beverly Cleary wrote about the pink eraser Ramona's father gave her as a little gift, I felt like I, too, could feel its rubbery smoothness in my palm and smell that perfect new-eraser smell. I didn't know that I could fall into a book in this way simply because a writer could write a good story. (Remember, I'm kindergarten reading memories consist mostly of sitting in front of a giant chart and reading sentences about a girl named Meg, her dog, Spot, and all those Dick and Jane bores.) After Ms. Davis finished Ramona, and I found out there were more books about Ramona and her sister, I made my dad take me to the public library, where I had the librarian teach me where I could find the rest of the them. I then proceeded to methodically check out, read, return, repeat until I had read all of the Cleary books (yes, even the ones about the mouse and that Henry Huggins kid). 

A bit later, cheesy pre-teen paperbacks came into my life. Whenever we visited the cousins, I spent as much time as possible in my older cousin's room, admiring all her uber-cool, teenage paraphernalia. She had a closet door covered with posters and high school football ribbons and a book shelf filled with paperbacks that had pouty, preppy-looking girls looking wistfully towards mannequin-handsome football player types. I was fascinated. She would lend me any book she deemed not too racy and I could never wait to go back. It was like my own little teenage-themed public library. I still have the book she lent me that made me want to write. I can't, for the life of me, remember what, exactly, it was about, but I remember finishing it and feeling something really important that I could not name. It sits on my bookshelf, still, among Hemingway, Outlander, Tuesdays with Morrie, and my poetry books. Every time I do one of those house purges, I pick it up, look at it, feel a bit sheepish for keeping it, think about putting it in the "donate" pile, and then put it back on the shelf. I am pretty sure it was right after finishing that book that I really started to try my hand at "chapter books." I still have a huge box in my guest room filled with rubber-banded, typed chapters of unfinished "novels." My ages when I started them probably range from 11 to 17. I have not read them in years. They take up a ton of space in my nearly-tiny house. I still can't get rid of them.

I started this blog because early parenting made me feel stifled and overwhelmed. I had a hard time figuring out how the life I had before I had kids would transform into the life I was living now. Don't get me wrong; I always wanted kids. In fact, Hubby and I had quite a few struggles having Ben, so I was quite grateful we managed to have 2 healthy boys. This, however, just contributed to my feelings of guilt and confusion in those early years: I wanted this, so why am I not feeling like those "happy-happy-joy-joy" women who came before me and told me things like "Becoming a mother was the most fulfilling thing I've ever done" or "I knew the moment they put my newborn son on my chest that I loved him more than anything."

The boys grew up on these pages, and really, so did I. I suspect if I look back and count, I wrote more posts venting about the bad stuff with a bit of humor mixed in than gloriously gushing. I was totally, completely honest. And the response was overwhelmingly positive. Suddenly, I was hearing lots of "Me too!" and "Ohmigod, this parenting thing sucks!" and "I didn't know it would be this hard!" One of my most statistically popular posts was called "Sometimes I don't like my kid." I never felt like I was betraying them. Really, they were barely people then. Ben was 3 1/2 and Kai was a few months old. I complained about potty training and preschool playground drama and my toddler flipping me the bird. My readers either related to it or they didn't, but if they judged, they were judging my parenting and perception of it, not my kids.

It's different now.

Over the last few years, they've turned into actual human beings with opinions and passions and their own mini struggles. Almost every time I thought "I gotta write about this..." I stopped myself. If I wrote about my teen's social struggles, there was a really good chance someone who knew someone who knew him was going to read about it. I knew my son did not want his pre-teen dramas unfolding on my pages, because no matter how insignificant or typical they were in reality, they were neither of these to him. My 11-year-old is just now entering those years of social trial-and-error and trying out different personas and becoming interested in girls. Although he does not have the intensity of his older brother, I know he is easily embarrassed and hates it when I talk about nearly anything that is even slightly-possibly-maybe-personal in front of just about anyone else.

So. This blog sat here silently and I tried repeatedly to silence my words inside my own head. I told myself I was done and that it had served its purpose and that really, who the hell even uses the word blog anymore and they weren't babies anymore and there was no need. But here's the problem: the theme of this blog might have been my kids, but what it really always has been is a space for my words.. And now that my kids are (almost) their own people and I am (almost) feeling like an actual person who is way more than just a mom in survival mode, I still have (almost) perfectly-crafted sentences left to write. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you still do have perfectly-crafted sentences left too write! I believe this to be true. But, I get it. It's hard to figure out what is acceptable to share or not when it comes to your family...when they literally give you inspiration to write a post almost on a daily basis. But in the end, keeping quiet is the best strategy.

    And thank you for reminding me about Ramona Quimby! I loved her as a did Man-Child.


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