In this week’s mailbag, Nitzan asks: “Have you thought about writing a book for parents? About raising creative kids? I would buy it!”
Yes, and to be 100% honest, I could probably sell that book tomorrow for a bunch of money.
I’ve toyed with writing a book called Parent Like A Librarian, which would have a very simple premise: Most parents conceive of themselves as teachers when they would be much better off thinking of themselves as librarians who provide their children with the time, space, materials, and resources to grow into whatever they want to become.
But, oh, I am so loathe to write about parenting!
For one thing, I’m suspicious of “parent” as a verb and I wonder if it does more harm than good.
I also worry that by writing about parenting, I exclude people without kids, whereas, if I write about what I’ve learned about creative work by being around my kids, people in my audience without kids can learn something, too.
Besides, what I’ve learned about parenting from my boys can be summarized by the late Tibor Kalman in Perverse Optimist: “Your children will smash your understanding, knowledge and reality. You will be better off.” (Although, honestly, I’m not so sure about the second sentence.)
Or, here’s Sarah Ruhl, in 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time To Write:
There were times when it felt as though my children were annihilating me… and finally I came to the thought, All right, then, annihilate me; that other self was a fiction anyhow. And then I could breathe. I could investigate the pauses.
Or Jonathan Coulton:
I compare the process to becoming a vampire, your old self dies in a sad and painful way, but then you come out the other side with immortality, super strength and a taste for human blood. At least that’s how it was for me. At any rate, it’s complicated.
What I’m convinced of: Rather than being “the enemy of art,” your children can inspire you to go new places in your art. Hanging around a four-year-old can get you unstuck. And having to be responsible for the creative atmosphere in which your kids grow up can make you re-think your own creative atmosphere. (After all, the atmosphere you create for them is the one you’re creating for yourself.)
Becoming a parent is an opportunity to think about who you’ve become, who you wanted to be, and, if you need to, course-correct. This is what’s so fucking hard about it: You not only have to take a cold look at yourself in the mirror and become the kind of person you want your kids to be, if you have biological children, you spend all day around little people who are living mirrors. And they don’t necessarily reflect back at you the parts of you want to see! (There have been several nights where I’ve turned to my wife and said, “Do you ever feel like they got our worst parts?”) Lou Reed’s song could be about a child instead of a lover: “I’ll be your mirror / reflect what you / in case you don’t know.”
Becoming a parent is also an opportunity to treat yourself more tenderly, to forgive yourself, to forgive your own parents, and move on: Live your own life, love what you love, care what you genuinely care about, and give yourself the freedom and opportunity to go about your days in a way that unlocks who you really are.
Oh god, I’m writing about parenting.
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