My youngest son came home from school last Monday, dropped his backpack at the door and ran up the stairs and into my office. “Mom,” he started barely able to catch his breath. “I want to write a book.” OK, this is the sentence I have been waiting to hear come out of the mouth of at least one of my children pretty much since the day they were born, but suddenly, I found myself envisioning him twenty years in the future sitting on the floor of a rundown apartment with nothing around him but a light, a laptop and a bottle of Jack Daniels.
That must have been the same vision (minus the laptop, of course) my Dad had when I announced with great pride that I would be majoring in English in college. “And what else?” He had asked. “Are you planning to get a degree in business or education?” I simply replied, “Nothing else. Just English. Even if I don’t ever write a book, what business doesn’t need a good writer on staff?” Apparently lots of businesses succeed without having good writers and it took me many years to discover that small, but relevant truth.
Did I really want one of my children to go down that same road—the one often filled with frustration and cynicism? Doesn’t Jack deserve a career that is a bit more secure and financially lucrative? Just as I was beginning to make my mental list of “why you should not be a writer”, I looked over to find Jack busy writing down words on a blank sheet of printer paper he had found on the floor. He was lost in his own writing—furiously trying to get his pen to keep up with the stories that were obviously flying through his mind. I knew that feeling—it was a great feeling. And that one singular sensation (pardon the ‘Chorus Line’ reference) you feel as a writer (and I am assuming you feel with any career/hobby you love) somehow makes all the frustrations more bearable.
“Jack, I think it’s great you want to write a book,” I said as I joined him on the floor to see what he was putting down on paper. “You could be a writer like Mommy.”
“You’re a writer?” He asked without even looking up from his paper.
“Yes,” and I hesitated before saying, “What do you think Mommy does?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t think you really did anything. Oh, laundry—you do a lot of laundry.” I got myself back up from the floor, found my place at the desk and said, “Well, I am a writer and I love it. And now you can be one, too.”
“I just want to write a book in the first grade. My real job will be something cool like a football player or a UFC fighter. Or, a bus driver. Whatever.”
Obviously I put way more thought into his writing career than he did which is how this whole parenting thing usually works, at least for me anyway. I find myself pre-planning their individual lives when in all honesty, they are just looking to make it through next week’s math quiz, English project or round of playground tag. It’s a lesson I need to learn from my children–just taking each moment as it is and not worrying about what the future may hold.
As Jack would say, “Whatever.”