Wednesday, 19 August 2015

When will I stop writing about my children?


When I started writing my diary it was just for me; I needed to write it. And I still need to write like I need to eat - not only because I enjoy it but because it's like therapy for the all the exhaustion; something more stimulating than the mundanity of spaghetti hoops and fish fingers. When I became a parent it was a bit of a shock – I struggled with the birth, the sleeplessness, the expectations suddenly placed upon my shoulders.  And in the early days I wrote because I had to, for my sanity, in that old whsmith diary (the one that was supposed to be a log of my baby routine, not one full of my woes).

Since then I have extended my writing to all sorts of subjects surrounding parenting and the pressures we face. It has been an instrumental part in dealing with a lot of issues surrounding anxiety, self worth and femininity. For years I felt I was the only one who felt the way I did; the only one who admitted that she found the washing pile overwhelming, or the thought of leaving the house with two small children an impossible task. And I wrote it out just for me, yet others responded and shared their secrets with me: that they felt that way too.

The problem, though, is that at the centre of my writing are two small but very individual people; my children. They are the backbone of my writing, my decisions, my creativity, my world. And of course my blog posts will include them; their funny ways, their tantrums and their milestones. Writing about parenting, after all, includes children. And the thing about writing thoughts and diaries publicly is that they rarely just include you, but those that affect you deeply.

Do my children give me permission to tell the world about their toilet habits? Their mood swings? Or their aversion to sleep? How would I feel if someone wrote a blog based on me and the time I started shouting at the washing machine like a mad woman? Or the time I cried when I ran out of Nutella? Okay, so I just went there, but I can make myself sound better than I really am, turning my woes into a comedy that you can all have a giggle at because, more than likely, you will appreciate my writing over any weaknesses. If someone else wrote these things, they may depict me in a light that I would not be too pleased with.

My eldest son is approaching school. He is the reason I started writing - his birth and his first few months were the hardest and longest moments of my life. I wasn't allowed to admit that, because mothers aren't allowed to feel anger or resentment towards their children as it makes them sound like bad people. I found my son hard – his extreme sensitivity to the world around him; the way he cried when a car drove past or the wind blew in his face; the way I felt I was treading on egg shells every two minutes. And he's still that sensitive little boy, complete with an awareness of the world around him; a kind heart that wants to help others; an amazing sense of humour; a desire to learn. And sure, he still has plenty of things I find difficult. But he's four. Of course he's not always going to eat with his mouth closed or aim properly when he pees. Of course he's going to sulk when he doesn't get what he wants – we all do it, we've just learnt to suppress it into internal rage.

We're all big kids at heart, and we can learn from little ones. They bring out the very best and the very worst in us, but they give us a greater awareness of what is good and bad; what is fair and what's not; what life is about and what it is not. When I write about my children I am trying to engage with those of you who have children too, or maybe those who do not, to give you an insight into what it is like for me, in the hope that you relate and find encouragement. In other words, my children are a tool to reveal a greater vulnerability in me, a voice that speaks into the silence.

Some mothers would never speak badly of their children. They either have perfect children, or they aren't being entirely honest. And that's okay, perhaps they are doing their children a favour, or perhaps they're doing themselves a disservice and becoming a more stressed out parent because they need to keep up with the idyllic image they have created. All parents find their children difficult at times. Fact. I speak about it openly to let parents know they are not alone, or for them to relate to my words and at worst have a giggle about the time I walked outside with baby sick on my back, or the time I flashed my boob to the postman. But what of my children? Can I continue to write about parenting without bearing intimate details about them?

When I was six years old I sometimes wrote secrets. Now, to you or I they would be quite silly, cute even, and you would have no problem with telling anyone about them, because it's just something a kid wrote, right? And one day an adult found what I had written and they laughed at it, and they shared it, and I felt betrayed. I was just a kid, but those things were important to me – they mattered. Children know and understand far more than we give them credit for, especially the sensitive ones we want to write about the most. Sometimes I'll see old friends and they will tell my son that they know all about him and, unless they are psychic, they have gathered all their information from social media. And what you read about him may well be true, but it's true only through my eyes. The time he had a tantrum in  the supermarket, that both made my day hell and made an excellent blog post, may well have been because I hadn't spent any time with him that morning and he was crying out for my attention. My point is, sure our lives are made difficult by our children, but do we take the time to see inside the minds of these little people and try to figure out what's wrong?

I promised myself that when my children started school I would be extra careful what I wrote of them; that if I wanted to write personal details about them I would ask their permission, or at least consider what image I am portraying of them. As my children get older I do not want them to be the children of that blog – you know, the one with embarrassing photos that their school friends can laugh at. I can still be honest without sharing intimate details, and I can still write with or without children. And sure, I'll continue to write about the highs and lows of parenting, but it will most likely be more episodes of me shouting at inanimate objects or running to the shops to replenish the Nutella.  Speaking of which...



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