I saw recently an exchange between tweeters about not wanting kids and being tired of being shamed for it or worse having to suffer being convinced how wonderful it is. As someone who wasn’t sure if she wanted kids or not, I get it. It’s not for everyone.
Having kids is a huge time, money, emotional suck. It is the ultimate exercise in self doubt and hidden childhood damages that rear their heads in a process that you are desperately hoping to keep pristine, like a lab at NASA. To put it shortly, it’s difficult very, very difficult. It is also wildly rewarding and kids are some of the funniest people you will hangout with. They are brutally honest and their Lord of the Flies attitude has not yet learned to cloak itself deceptively.
They will learn though and as they get older the shortcomings of their parents and the hurts the world has inflicted on them and their own natural tendencies will begin to shape them and show in their response to the world. This may be the hardest part of parenting, the watching of inevitability and the complete lack of ability to change it.
It’s a whole genre of books and movies and plays – the coming of age. Some of my best books have been my coming of age tales. But none of my tales have played so poignantly, so heart piercingly achingly real as the moments my own kids have stumbled through, often fallen flat, occasionally risen up to the challenge of the ‘next’ stage of their development. It blinds you with fear for them with the want to fix it and often with pride as they somehow navigate it.
I remember the year Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ came out. I bawled in that movie, just bawled. This movie impacted me so much because that year my eldest had their Inside Out year. It was the year everything wasn’t so cut and dry anymore. It was also the year we all reflected back over that child’s short life so far and realized it never had been. It was hard.
Grabbing the magnitude of this kind of emotion is what makes writing great. Stephen King is a genius because he can scare the pants off you (I’ve only ever managed to read one of this style of his books) and also reduce you to that heart swell of emotion without feeling trite or pandering. I don’t ever expect to write at his level.
But I’m going to keep trying.