Well, here’s a question I’m asked near-weekly:
How do you navigate the balance between your child’s privacy and sharing your perspective of motherhood? And how do I? How should we? What about the kids?
It’s my favorite question. I love it for a slew of reasons. I love it because we’re being mindful. I love it because we’re caring for the kids, for our own kids and for other people’s kids – they’re all the same, after all. I love it because we’re worried, and worry grows from concern and concern grows from experience, from observing, from watching and learning and thinking, Wait. Is there another way?
There is another way. There is always another way.
Here’s what I know to be true:
- Our stories matter.
- So do our children.
When we split the two: a parents’ perspective vs. a child’s experience, we’re only peering into half of the room. The ideals are not mutually exclusive, not in the slightest.
Here’s what I think:
We can talk about parenting without talking about parenting our children.
We can talk about the crushed Puffs in the backseat, about the Target tantrums, about the good and the bad and the Legos. We can talk about what it’s like to learn as we go. We can share tips – Nordstrom has the best nursing room! Stock up on Aquaphor! The zoo’s best on rainy mornings! – and we can be honest about it all. We can say that it’s hard. We can say that it’s beautiful. We can say that we’re grateful and that we’re tired, that we feel overwhelmed and also, oddly, emptied.
We’ll get to tell our kids someday, after all, if we’re lucky.
I once read a story about a pastor who scanned his sermons for a “Punchline Check.” When telling funny stories about other people – his kids, his wife, his friends or family – he’d carefully review his words to make sure the punchline was about him and no one else.
The joke’s gotta be on me, he’d say. It’s not fair to share somebody else’s faults at the pulpit.
I don’t mind sharing my faults at this tiny pulpit, here in my buzzing corner coffee shop, steaming mug nearby. But I mind sharing somebody else’s.
And so, often, a Punchline Check.
I was emailing with one of you a month or so ago, a memoirist and songwriter who is working out this very topic in her own head. Where’s the line? she’d written. How do we know when we cross it?
You’ll know, I wrote. You’ll hear it in the punchline.
I’ve done this wrong, and I’ve done it right. I’ve written volumes before 7am, only to promptly delete them after the Punchline Check.
Can we resist the temptation to tell someone else’s story? Can we allow the joke to be on us? Can we sit with our own faults, fears, anxieties, doubts, long enough to write them down on a screen and let them be? Learn a little about ourselves? Leave the rest to each other?
Every now and then, someone kind and encouraging will offer praise for those who write parenting blogs. Your little girl will have such fond memories of herself, such colorful stories from childhood! they’ll say.
And it’s true, almost. But not entirely.
Instead, this: She will have such fond memories of her mother, such colorful stories of motherhood!
Bee’s memories and stories won’t come from this blog. Those are hers to own – to share, or not.
But someday, she’ll get to read a bird’s eye view from someone observing her bloom. She’ll get to peer from another perspective as she reads each fault, each fear, each anxiety, each doubt.
And she’ll blink, and she’ll pause, and she’ll know instinctively that this wasn’t the flower’s story.
It was the bird’s.
(p.s. Thank you for these photos, Ruth!)