So, here’s the thing – I try really hard not to be “that mom.” I don’t think that my kids’ poop smells like roses. I don’t let them climb on strangers’ furniture and then praise their precociousness. I try really hard not to dominate conversations with how stinking cute they are. And while I think my oldest shows signs of being a burgeoning genius (he can count to 14! he knows colors! he knows letters! but he sucks with a fork! and he just turned two!), I keep most of those revelations to myself and only discuss them in whispers with my husband and the kids’ nanny.
Here’s a cliche for you: Becoming a mom did something to me. Yes, something beyond ensuring that my favorite jeans would never settle on my hips properly again. Something beyond the obligatory “when I see them walking around, my heart is gallivanting outside of my body.”
Becoming a mom has changed my focus on writing. Notice: I will never say that becoming a mom has made me a better writer. I came too close to not being able to bear children to be that kind of a twee asshole. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that motherhood changed things. First off – reading books that “fill the well” and inspire me? Sandra Boynton may not have the same allure as the latest Diana Gabaldon, but it’s what I’ve been reading. Over and over and over again. And running off to the coffee shop to sit for hours noodling on prose? It still happens, but it’s usually a once a week thing that’s planned around bedtimes and my husband’s standing game night.
Having my eldest son paved the way for change, but Number Two pictured above was the game changer. I was working on my manuscript for “Afterlife” up until the night before we went in for our scheduled C-section. And then I finished the first draft of AL on the last day of my maternity leave (thanks to an amazing spouse and three mornings a week that our babysitter came to acclimate herself to two hooligans versus one). Having my youngest son – who turns a year old today (eeek!) – ushered in the era of “getting shit done.”
Lev Grossman wrote an engaging piece on how his daughter helped him find his voice. And talked about the challenges and frustration of trying to write in fits and spurts, but more importantly – how prior to the birth of his daughter, there were writing days where he let himself down, but with the arrival of Lily, he’d be damned if he’d let her down. (I love this: “Any time I wrote a sentence that was less than true I could feel her looking over my shoulder and shaking her head, slowly and sadly: Come on, Daddy. We both know that’s crap.”)
Although I spend time on Facebook narrating what I think my sons are saying with their expressions, I don’t have this image of them on my shoulders chiming in every time I make an editorial misstep. But what I do have are two really adorable and engaging little boys that have helped me prioritize.
So – happy birthday to my youngest and last baby, my littlest bear. And if you or your brother ever decide that you want to spend your lives stringing words together – do not let fear limit you. Live authentically. And the quickest way to write a novel is to park your ass in a chair and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and write.
You both are my greatest inventions.