Let me get real.
I have a hard time believing this myself.
I started writing this post in a chirpy way, with bullet points and the sinking feeling that I was at best distorting the truth and at worst lying.
Because figuring out how to carve out enough time to be a writer while keeping my children home really, really full time often seems completely ridiculous.
And yet—and yet—
When I look at my growth as a writer, so much of the really healthy, non-anxious, emotionally-mature progress I’ve made has been in the last few years. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
It’s happening because the act of building up my kids’ creativity is growing my own.
Everyday, I see my daughters sit down with wide eyes to create things. Pillow forts. Impromptu stores. Art projects. Crayon factories. Dollhouses. Entire imaginary worlds. They decide they will create, and they don’t worry so much about end results, potential pitfalls, or what failure would look like.
Creation comes to them as naturally as breathing. That is a forceful thing to watch and participate in everyday.
On the flip side, everyday, my daughters want to know if they’re the best, if they win, if I can watch, if they’re good at x, y or z. Performance, comparison, people-pleasing—all the unhelpful monologues I combat every time I sit down to create. They’re fighting them too.
And this is what I tell them: “I see how hard you’re working.” “If you keep trying, you’ll get better.” “We are all learning.” “You can do it—if not now, then later.” “It’s okay to feel frustrated at first.” “It’s okay to start over.” “It will get easier.”
Saying these words over and over to them is doing wonders for my self-talk.
Yesterday, I watched my daughter doing “origami” on her own terms (the uninitiated might see it as crumpling paper). We have done simple forms from a book together–quite successfully–but sometimes she ignores the book, and comes up with her own designs. She brings them to me, proudly, telling me this one is a bird, this one a mermaid’s tail, and –to my surprise, I see it, exactly–the bird taking flight, the mermaid’s tail arching in the water.
Why does she have to follow instructions, a book, the rules?
Why do I?
I am continually astonished at the force of my daughters’ personalities.
I’m beginning to be astonished by my own, too.
*With love to Ursula K. Le Guin, whose essay “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Writes the Book” comforted me tremendously as a new mother trying to stay awake in a MFA fiction writer’s workshop at 9:30 pm. Le Guin’s essay appeared in the NY Times on Jan 22, 1989. I was able to find a copy of the essay for free through my local library’s research resources. If you haven’t read it–you should. Actually, I need to re-read it myself.