So, I’m the mom of a 5 year old girl. She’s an intelligent, creative person with a flare for color and style. She can be remarkably sweet. She’s mature and demanding. She thinks she knows EVERYTHING and does no wrong.
Imagine, if you will, trying to negotiate with such a person in-and-out every day. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so there’s very little space between me and my children. This means that toes get stepped on more frequently, space gets invaded too often, and mountains of dishes end up in my otherwise clean sink.
Anyone with a child knows that 5 year olds are on the cusp of being actual people. They are intuitive and soak up every word whether it’s spoken loudly or muttered under one’s breath. You never know when they’re going to regurgitate those words, but it’s always a mortifying experience. And a humbling one.
My daughter has grown increasingly intolerant of her little brother. My daughter is independent and does all things with a level of perfection she knows her clumsy, sweet, well-meaning little brother just can’t.
This morning, she was fussing at him about not recapping her markers–a skill she herself has only mastered within the last month–when I intervened on the poor lads behalf. I’ll never forget what I said, because the writer in me sprang forth and rained down like mom-shaped confetti.
I said, “Don’t you think you could be more patient with your brother? Hasn’t he shared all his birthday presents with you?”
She said, “But he won’t recap my markers!!!”
I said, “I think you should forgive him, and recap the markers when ya’ll are finished.” (Meanwhile, rage boils beneath skin)
She said, “But he’s ruining my things!!!”
I said, “I think you need to be more patient.” (Rage leaks from pores) “You need to change this grumpy behavior.”
She said, “I have!!!”
I said, “Then show me by changing your behavior, don’t just tell me the words!”
Child stares at me in gaping fashion, stunned into silence.
I’ve never had actual writing lingo break into non-writing conversations before. The phrase pulled me up short, so I made like any proper mom who accidently won an argument, and stormed out of the room–supposedly to leave said child to ruminate over the supreme logic of her parent.
It was a fun experience, and while my daughter sat back down to her uncapped markers, I sprang into the dining room to write out my experience on a paper plate–the closest thing to paper I had on hand.
I’ve always noticed how my life experiences seep into my writing, adding color and texture to settings and grit or pa-zazz to my characters. It’s almost a plot twist to have my writing seep into the everyday…and score me a parenting win!
*Showing versus telling…most of us know what this means, but if you’re new to writing, or not a writer at all, let me offer a brief explanation. Show vs Tell means to use dialogue and physical action to express something in your writing, to progress the plot, and enlighten the readers to new information, instead of just telling the reader straight up. Telling is also referred to as an info dump. And if parents know anything, we know that dumps are heavy and repelling.
On that fruitful note, I’ll open the floor to other parents. Have you shared similar experiences with your kids? Have you surprised yourself and gained a win for the home team? Please leave a comment or word of advice. We’re all in this parenting–and writing–thing together.