Most of the time, parents and caregivers are doing their best. They/we make mistakes; not from a deep desire to thwart our children. Rather, we do what was done to us or the polar opposite. Both have benefits and both drawbacks, particularly if “what was done to them” includes abuse, addiction, depression, and/or chronic pain. Some people (about 5%) are truly evil. If TE applies, you might check out the posts under “Epically Screwy.”
Last year, I joined a number of Facebook groups starring real, publishing writers. Many were focused on commercial publications than literary, especially high-level publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
I queried a few placed. Crickets. I elected to finish out 2018 per my goals – literary publications – and to start factoring in the commercial media in 2019.
First step: identify dream publications. Step Two: approach.
The New York Times: queried 3/17 with travel article culled from my recent Asia trip.
The Washington Post: Queried the Parenting section on 3/17 with a short humor essay regarding my less-than-nurturing behavior during the death of my daughter’s Guinea pigs (scuttling, gnawing creatures). Was rejected 3/19.
Huffington Post: Submitted the Guinea pig tale: “A Good Mama and a Decent Human Being.”
The Cut: A section in New York Magazine (NOT The New Yorker), very “hip.” Formerly interested only in essays, they announced on 3/18 that they now take fiction. On 3/18, sent flash fiction featuring sharks, rats, bad stew, and nunchucks. Only from my wickedly feminist imagination could this story spring.
Catapult: features long-form memoir (maybe 5,000 words). I have nothing for them, right now.
Longreads: ditto for their requirements, and ditto for my stock.
LitHub: Strikes a nice balance between literary and commercial. Submitted an essay, “Mouthy Ugly Genius.”
I began “Round Down” at least a hundred years ago – okay, probably fifteen years ago – in a Hugo House class taught by Brangien Davis on writing humor. I hoped it would be a funny little piece about cheating in eighth grade. I titled it “The Rhenquist ‘B’ Incident.”
No one wanted it. No one gave me any feed back. It was “Dear Writer: NO” the whole way. I found the first traction with it when I began to go deeper, when I found the bravery to explore the weight that a family legacy of cheating had on me.
“Round Down” as it stands now visited the submission boxes of 24 magazine since I began tracking submission and rejections, three years ago. I have no idea how many rejections it faced when the sad sucker was in the form of “The Rhenquist ‘B’ Incident.”
I heard her not ten minutes ago on the NPR affiliate, KUOW Seattle. I agreed with her on so many things. Get the book.
However, in discussing a recent survey showing that parents are slightly less happy that those who do not have children, she and host Ross Reynolds left out what is usually left out these conversations, that which is the focus of this here blog:
When people have children, men and women alike are triggered around everything that did and/or did not happen to them as children.
Every parent’s greatest fear is that anything that happened to them as a child will happen to their child. This is the primary reason the first years of new parenthood are so difficult. To new parents: it really does get better.
One’s psychological improvement is not a reason to bring a child into the world. Life will present you with more than enough reasons to navel- or mind-gaze, depending on your world view. But children are one sure way to do it.
I’ve been reading posts from moms who are worried that their kids might gain weight. The links are too numerous to list. Just Google “Alle needs to save everyone.” A telling example comes from a parent who posted that she worries more about her child getting fat than having an eating disorder.
To which I say sadly, your child already has an eating disorder.
As concerned parents have most likely discovered, lecturing children about food groups and healthy fats, putting them on diets has no power. According to Dr. Donna Bevan-Lee of The Legacy Center, neither will saving your own treats after they have gone to bed. Instead, she suggests:
Sit down with your child and a plentiful bowl of whatever you have discovered hidden away in their room.
Ask them to help themselves.
Sit with them and chat while they eat.
Do your level best not to make judgmental faces nor to eyeball what they consume. (Side note: I was once on a binge at party. Stationed by the seven-layer dip, I scooped chip after loaded chip, stopping only when a friend literally grabbed my hand with a “Stop!” Try not to do that to your child.)
Repeat process, day after day, until your child says, “No thanks,” and happily trots off to play.
Join in the snack.
And there’s the rub. Most people argue with me about the health and viability of the process, but only at the final bullet point do they flat out balk or glaze over and change the subject. I find it so much easier to worry about my children’s food and fat than about my own eating, not eating, carb counting and burning off of each extra bite. Such might the case with another blogger, who posted that she tenses up every time her children ask for ice cream.
Think of the number of people you know with alcoholic parents who never touch a drink. Funny, though; they seem overly wrapped up in work. They also might spend way more than they earn, they might always end up with “the wrong guy,” or wonder aloud, “Why are all the good guys taken?” This is called addiction.
They might be fat, yet their partner is in excellent shape, and possibly always yammering about every carb that goes into everybody else’s mouths. They might be thin- to normal-weighted, but their parents are fat. Their kids are fat.
Toward the end of February, I posted my view of blogging about one’s children. Mom-blogger and photographer Camille Sheppard Dohrn commented with an opposing view so lacking in wounded anger that I contacted her with the following suggestion:
In response, Camille wrote she was happy “to throw open the conversation on both of our blogs, hoping for comments and thoughts from our loyal and faithful readers!”
With an exclamation point of my own to encourage healthy, respectful debate, we are on it. You can read my original post here, and Camille’s unedited response here. To continue:
Two years ago, I heard Philip Lopate speak. (If you ever can, do. It never hurts to sit at the feet of greatness.) He got a standard question for the personal essay set: How does your (fill-in-the-black relative; he got) mother feel about you writing about her? (It is not entirely flattering.) He said she wigs out on a continual basis, but he’s got her character “up and running.” All he need do is sit down to write, and out she pops.
Clearly, he understands the influence his publishing about her has on their relationship. He does not appear to care. One suspects he might even enjoy it. Lopate, however, is publishing about an adult. If he had the same opinion about his daughter, Lily, he would be a schmuck.
Is Camille schmucky? No. I think she, like so many parent-bloggers, has not thought it through from her children’s perspective.
Parents exist to meet the needs of their children, not the other way around. When told to take down the post, Camille did. That she is open to hearing negative feedback from a smaller, less powerful person who is dependent on her for survival says a lot about her parenting. That her teens felt they could share go her with their opinion says a lot the relationship she has fostered. I know plenty of 40- and 50-somethings who are afraid to be honest with their parents, and I would wager that their feeling of not being heard—of not counting as a full person—started early and was reinforced plenty.
On a seeming tangent: I like to wear v-necks. The cut supports the illusion that m’boobs are H-W-P. About three years ago, my son of as many years started telling me he was not comfortable seeing what we call “private parts.” Basically, I ignored him. My daughter started in on it when she was two. I began to pay attention. With a red face, I now see that the appearance of my breast size was more important to me than my children’s needs. At the same time, I was raising them to understand the difference between public and private behavior. To quote myself, “That is why they are called private parts.” All the while walking around, Cleavage Mama. As small as my children were, and as young and as powerless, they were aware of the contradiction. Lucky for me, they were comfortable saying so.
As much as I believe that mothers are sexual beings with the right to our sexuality, we can chose to support our children’s well-being over our own self-expression and vanity.
Additionally, it is my firm belief that blogging about one’s children is dangerous, but that is a different post. First, I would like to hear Camille’s response. And yours as well.
For writers, one of the best things about traveling is that someone else does all the cooking. Writers are supposed to be creatures upon whom no detail is lost. With apologies to Henry James, I will proceed to take our vacation expenses off my taxes.
Observation #1: Girl (perhaps 3) screaming head off in wave pool.
Father: “You are not scared. You are not scared. C’mon. You are not scared.”
In context of our conversation about verbal abuse, one brave soul confided: “I spanked my daughter when she wouldn’t behave, and it worked. I’ve decided to keep spanking her.”
Certainly, spanking your child could reduce, even eliminate, whatever behavior is:
driving you nuts;
embarrassing you in public or in front of relatives; and/or
preventing you from doing what you want to do, finally, for ten minutes, finally, to yourself.
Yep, spanking might work. While they are young and small.
The problem is, a child is destined to grow. Their sense of self and their personal power will strengthen. Each and every hit lays down a layer of fear on the child’s part, fear that is matched or exceeded by anger. Compile those layers like a lasagna, and the child is likely to:
short-term take out their anger on smaller siblings and/or friends. This does not make for a child who is asked back for playdates. This makes for a lonely child; and
long-term realize she or he no longer fears you. Good luck to you, in those teen years.
So let’s stop whacking them around, shall we? When I want to smack a child, I make sure to put the child in a safe place and keep at least ten feet between the little shit and myself. I keep the distance until I can again see that child as acting their age in response to a situation set up by the adult in charge.
Should I be the alleged adult allegedly in charge, I apologize.