This is a photo of Eleanor and me from 1999, I think. I was looking for one from 2001, but I’m terrible at keeping photos and memories organized. But basically when I think back on 9/11, I remember that Eleanor was too small to under-stand what was going on and had the world in front of her. So did I. So much of the person she was becoming was hidden from me. I had no idea how I would or could influence her; mostly I just wanted her to take a damn nap. I’d given birth before I’d even chosen a career path. In a couple years, this little girl will say something funny that inspires me to write a picture book that will go on to get rejected. But I’ll fall in love with writing. I’ll keep at it, eventually moving on to YA novels that I’ll be positive will sell before she graduates from high school. I’ll be wrong. But, I’ll still keep at it.
I’ll start a blog, which celebrates both the absurdity and wonder of the teenage years and the angst and joy of parenting. The kids will become teens, so I’ll write less about them because dang, I never really asked permission in the first place and maybe I’ve been kind of invading their privacy. And I’ll grow weary of not having good writerly news to share, so my blog will grow cold.
This is my first post in about a year. All in all, writing has been a less enjoyable journey than I thought it would be. This month, for instance, I was reminded to renew my SCBWI membership, which marked my 10th year with this beautiful organization. It also reminded me that it’s been over ten years now that I’ve been collecting rejections. This week brought three book rejections, which marks a new milestone: I’ve officially tipped the scale at over 100 rejections since my career start. I’ve been a little wallowy.
On the bright side, Eleanor and Magnolia are teens who happen to enjoy reading and talking about books, even my books. We also love talking about other life stuff, for instance the weirdness of high school and what the future holds. Where most parents feel estranged from their teens, I’ve never felt closer to my kids. This is a rare and remarkable thing that I treasure. Eleanor, now a senior, has herself fallen in love with writing and joined my critique group. I’m in my golden age of parenting. I feel weepy when I think of my kids leaving for college. I’m not a weeper. Josh is the weeper. Eleanor once said something like, “Yeah, my dad cries over poetry, TV shows, baby animal videos. There’s something at least once a month. But if I see my mom cry? Shit. Something is going down.” Well, college is about to go down.
This morning as I was scrolling 9/11 anniversary Facebook posts, Eleanor asked me if I wanted to read her college essay. Yes. Of course I did. I haven’t asked her if it’s okay to share any of it, so I’ll only say that I wept when she said her mother had been one of the fiercest and hardiest people she’s known–that she’d seen me at war with a myriad of life’s elements (physical and emotional: she mentioned my nerve disorder and the rejections streaming in over the years) that perhaps helped her raise her chin, keep her eyes hard, and meet the hard stuff in life head-on.
I mean, duh, of course I wept. It was kind of like, huh, I influence her. And it was kind of like, oh thank god. And it was kind of like, wow, we did it, she’s going to be so good at life. And it was kind of like, oh dang, she’s watching how I deal with rejection.
I wept because my books may fail, but my parenting hasn’t. I want to tell that young mother in the photo that her baby is going to amazing! I want to reach back and tell her to buckle in because she may never have a writing career, but the struggle will not be for nothing. I want to tell her to stop fantasizing about showing her kids what she’ll look like in a successful career because the way they see her in a failing career will shape them beautifully. I still hope for a time they see me succeed at getting a book published, of course. But, that’s a different blog post.
And then I wept because it’s 9/11 and there are mothers that lost out on seeing what their daughters will become. There are daughters who didn’t get to watch their mothers go to war with life. So, it seemed a good time to write a blog post. To be thankful that I was thrown into parenthood and that I’ve gotten to wallow around in both the love and suffering of life.