Tuesday, July 26, 2011

There have been times lately where it seems the summer is dragging on. Maybe it's because of the terrible heat or because preschool is on vacation. Either way, some days have felt extremely long. Which, I'll admit, has caused some anxiety on my part. I find myself with racing thoughts, "What will we do today?, How can I keep them busy so they don't fight?, Where can I take them that is inexpensive?, How can I enjoy the summer a little myself?, What will I do with them for the next 12 hours?!?"

Then, a thought hit me. It was something I've heard from my mother many times before: "A little boredom is good for kids." It seems so radical in today's world! The idea that I don't have to be their constant source of entertainment!? That I can pick up my own book and enjoy it while they find something to do that doesn't require me driving them anywhere! That if I allow them some boredom they will actually find a way to have fun; maybe even tap into their imaginations. That if I turn the TV off, they will survive!

It all seems so retro and because of that, I'm in. The old way of doing things sometimes is best. The time before IPads, DVR's and Leapster Explorers. I want to taste that bit of nostalgia for myself. I want to see the girls come up with skits and dance routines to perform for Gabe and I (just like Lizzy and me :). I want them to scribble on paper and call it their "journal" because that's what they saw me doing this morning. I want them to find fun in the ordinary. I want them to get lost in a book!!!

So, the other day while I was having these thoughts, my sister posted something on her website that is exactly what I was thinking but didn't have the words for. While my sister didn't write it, she is an amazing journalist, writer, sister and you can find her here.
I want to say for the record that neither Maddie nor Gracie have said they want to be a writer, (this week Mad's wants to be a Firefighter and Grace wants to be a frog) but I found the suggestions in the following piece applicable to all parents; of girls in particular! ;)

Written by M. Molly Backes

What should you do to help your child pursue her dreams of becoming a writer?

First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book. Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It’s even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood.

Let her be lonely. Let her believe that no one in the world truly understands her. Give her the freedom to fall in love with the wrong person, to lose her heart, to have it smashed and abused and broken. Occasionally be too busy to listen, be distracted by other things, have your nose in a great book, be gone with your own friends.

Let her have secrets. Let her have her own folder on the family computer. Avoid the temptation to read through her notebooks. Writing should be her safe haven, her place to experiment, her place to work through her confusion and feelings and thoughts. If she does share her writing with you, be supportive of her hard work and the journey she’s on. Ask her questions about her craft and her process. Ask her what was hardest about this piece and what she’s most proud of. Don’t mention publication unless she mentions it first. Remember that writing itself is the reward.

Let her get a job. Let her work long hours for crappy pay with a mean employer and rude customers. If she wants to be a writer, she’ll have to be comfortable with hard work and low pay. Let her spend her own money on books and lattes – they’ll be even sweeter when she’s worked hard for them.

Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write painfully bad fan fiction. Don’t freak out when she shows you stories about Bella Swan making out with Draco Malfoy. Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans.

Let her go without writing if she wants to. Never nag her about writing, even if she’s cheerful when writing and completely unbearable when she’s not. Let her quit writing altogether if she wants to.

Let her make mistakes.

Let her stay after school to work on the newspaper, but only if she wants to. Let her publish embarrassingly personal stories in the school literary magazine. Let her spill the family’s secrets. Let her tell the truth, even if you’d rather not hear it.

Let her sit outside at night under the stars. Give her a flashlight to write by.

Let her find her own voice, even if she has to try on the voices of a hundred others first to do so. Let her find her own truth, even if she has to spin outrageous lies in search of it. Remember that her truth isn’t the same as anyone else’s truth, and that even if you were there with her when it happened, your memories of a moment will likely be vastly different from hers. Let her write thinly-veiled memoirs disguised as fiction. It’s okay if she massages past events to make a better story, or leaves entire years of her life on the cutting room floor. It’s okay if she writes about characters who have nothing to do with her life, her experience, or her world. That’s what fiction is.

Let her write poetry on her jeans and her shoes and her backpack, even if you just bought them brand new.

Keep her safe but not too safe, comfortable but not too comfortable, happy but not too happy.

Above all else, love and support her. Love her and believe in her. Love her, and let her go. In the end, your love is all that matters, and it will be enough. The rest will come from her.


Anonymous said...

Love it. Love you.

Anonymous said...

Good article, but I love your writing and thoughts even more. There is wisdom in many of the practices of the old days.

What if the girls grow up and never swing on a rope swing in a tree? Or climb to the Top of the World? Or put together a Treasure Hunt for someone else? Or set up a "fort" in the front room with blankets and chairs?

What if they never get to see a "drive-in movie"? Or, build their own puppet stand to put on a play? Or, make their own music video? Or, play with a big box instead of a manufactured toy? Have they made a milk shake with a cup, ice cream, milk, a lid, and whole lot of jumping up and down?

What if you're the kind of Mom that makes all this happen? Now, THAT is truly something remarkable....

Being a parent is always about being ON or AVAILABLE, but I think that you're figuring out what that means. And, being there for them is not the same as being their entertainment or cruise director.

Kick back. Raise a book. And banish the kids to another room to play for 30 minutes. You will be amazed with what they will come up with.

chronicles of momnia said...

sometimes i catch mar listening to music on her own, dancing around and generally getting lost in her own little world. i am always really careful not to interrupt her or ask her what she's doing. i remember doing the same thing when i was younger. just imagining and pretending away. there's something so sweet about it...