Two challenges make writing about parenting especially difficult these days. The first is, my children are too old for me to spill their personal lives onto my blog – it’s one thing to write about the challenges of teething toddlers and quite another to illustrate the conflicts teenagers bring into the picture.
With the first, the story is still about the parent: “My two-year old screamed for the 498th time today while I was unloading the grocery cart. The clerk winced. Everyone shifted away from me. I was that mom with the screaming kid in the grocery store. Rage swelled within me. Even as I steadily unloaded the milk, the cereal, the wine and the shredded asagio, rage swelled within me. I hated my child for screaming. I hated the clerk for wincing. I hated the way people rolled their eyes. I even hated the people who glanced at me with sympathy.”
With the latter, the parent is publicizing the child’s story against his or her will: “The phone call came just after midnight. Jack was drunk, the girl’s voice said. We should come and get him.” Or, “The phone rang just as I had dropped my head into my hands, wondering how I would meet this deadline. The school’s number flashed. I answered. The principal said hello, then launched right into the news. Lisa had been suspended for smoking pot on campus. Again.”
So there’s the whole invasion-of-privacy aspect, which leads to the second problem. As a writer, I have “Show, don’t tell” cauterized into my brain. If I can’t show what’s happening through action and dialogue, then how can I write about it with any artfulness?
I wish I could. I’m tired. My heart hurts. I’m desperate for useful advice. The constant conflict wearies me. I begin to think it’s all hopeless, that my attempts have come to nothing. I envy families who seem to relate with ease, parents whose focus has been on helping their children succeed instead of all their efforts directly at merely preventing failure.
I should add, immediately, things aren’t that bad. We have our moments of laughter and joy and love. We’d have to – otherwise there’d be no going on.