Sunday, June 27, 2010

Telling and Writing Stories for Our Children

I am a firm believer that what our children want most from their parents is to know them, to know them more deeply and thoroughly.

My older son, before puberty hit, repeatedly said he wished time machines were real. I finally pressed him about where he'd go and why. All he wanted was to go back in time to my childhood and his father's to see what we were like and what our lives were before he knew us. He said he wanted to live our childhoods. This shocked me as I'd never want my kids to live through what I went through; much of it was typical and harmless but there are parts I've gone to great lengths to not have them experience, but they know nothing of these things. I'm not sure they should either (even when they are adults). On the other hand I should not be surprised that my son wants to know a lot about my youth because I feel the same way about both of my parents and about my grandparents too.

The other day my younger son, now ten years old said out of the blue that he has no memory of his life before age four. Why is it that kids seem to begin to retain memories of their early years at the exact same time they learned to read? I have this same experience as does my older son. My younger son complained to me that I never tell stories about him when he was a toddler or a baby. I don't think that's true but honestly I can't remember the last time I told a story, so maybe it is.

Last year I vowed to myself to begin writing some stories about my life and some thoughts about my children and our life experiences. I have not kept that promise to myself. As with any new creative project one must carve out the time for this and stick to doing it even when not in the mood. I confess I've just let this simmer as a wish or dream and have done nothing about it.

I want to make clear that I don't think there is much worthy of my childhood or life that strangers would want to read (if what I write was put together as a book). I imagine that these stories would be of interest only to my children. It seems to me that perhaps too many people are writing and publishing memoirs or a book of their thoughts. Some of the nonfiction essay type books would have been fine as just a long essay but the stretched out book form is pushing the envelope.

Some of the new books being published, I think, is just stupid writing, stuff like a guy who never worked a minimum wage job as a teen or while in college because his family was well off decides to do that as an adult and write about how hard it is. Give me a break. If he'd done that like I did when I was putting myself through school he not need "enlightenment" about how good his adult life really is. All I can think is that maybe those authors are narcissists to think their experience is so unique or so (fill in some word of your choosing) that the American public wants to read it. And if their real lives have nothing of value to say then they make up projects to live through then write of their complaints about it (another example is how hard it is to live without buying anything produced in China for a year).

I have thought perhaps that if I stopped blogging I could use that time for this new writing project. The reason I haven't done that is because writing this blog is almost effortless and often a quick thing. It's a habit and a routine that is not stressful for me. I have no real reason to abandon it and have multiple reasons to continue.

Doing deep writing about my life and my children's earlier years will require more emotional energy and reflection than I feel I have been capable of mustering up. If I'm to start this I need to psych myself up and make some plans and use self-discipline to get it done. Looking back on our busy spring with the new homeschool co-op and the competitive lacrosse team, I have no time for this endeavor during the school year.

There is the additional issue of sugar-coating versus revealing fact. I don't want my kids to, upon reading my writings, think less of their grandparents by telling the truth about their imperfections or even their large flaws and the negative impact it had on my childhood. Maybe it's best to just let them have their own memories and impressions. Perhaps the issue is the editing of fact from what I choose to reveal is the thing that will require too much energy than I feel like spending at this moment.

I'm sharing these thoughts to get you thinking about the topic.

Do you tell your children stories of your childhood? How often? Recently?

Are you telling them stories of their early years?

Have you written any down yet?

Do you plan to?


Laura Grace said...

Write your memoirs! The easiest way is to write stories as they occur to you, discarding any efforts at chronology. I used to teach Life Story workshops. The richest stories came as participants wrote in themed areas: struggle and overcoming struggle, traditions and holidays, leaving and coming back, firsts, food, mentors----the themes are endless.

Now that my mother is gone I realize what a wonderful job she did in telling stories. She kept the memories alive of ancestors we’d never met through stories, leaving me with the impression that I too might have some of their initiative and courage. She also told us certain stories from her youth, some funny and some poignant. When she told us about our earliest years she always prefaced those tales by saying that no babies were ever more wanted than her babies. Her stories stay with me. Tell yours!

Shez said...

we tell our kids stories about their early years and our childhoods all the time. they know they by heart and love them. I, however have to severely edit my stories as I don't want the kids to know about the abuse in my childhood yet, if ever.

I may tell them about it when my mother is dead and gone because I do want them to realize that we can rise above our situation and not repeat history.